6 April 2006

UN Relief Coordinator Dismayed by Norwegian Refugee Council Told to Leave Darfur

NEW YORK, 5 April (OCHA) -- United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland expressed dismay today on learning that the non-governmental organization, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) had been told by Sudanese authorities to leave the Darfur region.

According to a statement released by the NRC, the organization was told yesterday to end all humanitarian operations in Darfur and leave the region.  The previous day, the organization had been informed of the Government's refusal to renew NRC's contract as coordinator of Kalma camp -- the largest camp for internally displaced persons in Darfur.

"The NRC has been doing an excellent job, as acknowledged by not only its humanitarian partners and the donors but also by many local authorities.  Kalma used to be a disorganized area with 90,000 IDPs where mortality rates were among the highest in Darfur and IDPs repeatedly clashed with Sudanese authorities.  Thanks to the work of NRC and its UN and NGO partners, it's now a well managed camp where all the critical needs are being met, and tensions are managed effectively," stated Mr. Egeland.

"With no one to replace the NRC, I fear that conditions for the 90,000 people in the camp will worsen.  Tensions are likely to rise among the IDPs who looked to NRC for help and to resolve problems, particularly with local authorities," he added.

The decision highlighted the daily constraints imposed upon humanitarian workers from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, Mr. Egeland said, "It is just one example of the rising levels of restrictions that the 14,000 aid workers in Darfur and in many other parts of Sudan face every day."

These restrictions range from long delays in exit and re-entry visas for non-governmental organization staff and unjustified interference in the recruitment of staff, to delays clearing imported humanitarian goods and equipment.

"The rise in these restrictions in recent months unfortunately reminds me of the early part of 2004.  We must have the full cooperation of the Government at all levels to be able to carry out life-saving work in Darfur and other parts of Sudan.  Those who will suffer the most if we don't are the millions of Sudanese citizens who urgently need humanitarian relief," Mr. Egeland added.

For additional information, please contact Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York:  +1 917 367 5126, +1 917 892 1679 (mobile); Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York:  +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva:  +41 22 917 2653; +41 79 473 4570 (mobile).

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