8 August 2006

Humanitarian Efforts in Darfur Jeopardized by Aid Workers' Deaths

KHARTOUM/NEW YORK, 7 August (OCHA) -- Escalating violence in Darfur has killed more aid workers in the last two weeks than in the past two years and is now seriously jeopardizing the humanitarian mission in the area, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Humanitarian access is at its lowest level since the Darfur operation began, and operational risks for aid workers are increasing daily.  Eight humanitarian workers died while on duty in July.  At the same time, the violence is also impacting local populations, thereby deepening the humanitarian crisis.

"The level of violence being faced by humanitarian workers in Darfur is unprecedented.  Many of the attacks happened while workers were helping suffering populations", said Manuel da Silva, Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan.  "This is completely unacceptable.  All sides must respect the neutrality of humanitarian workers.  If this situation continues, we risk losing all that we have gained over the past year."

In addition to the deaths, increases have also been recorded in hijackings of vehicles belonging to non-governmental organizations.  Vehicles have been attacked and stolen during food distributions.  Vehicles have also been stolen from compounds of non-governmental organizations and one ambulance has also been attacked.

As a result of these incidents, many staff of Sudanese nationality working for international non-governmental organizations and the United Nations now fear for their safety if they enter camps, and, in some cases, they are reluctant to do so.

The Humanitarian Coordinator is also concerned at the impact that the increased violence is having on local populations, which have already suffered too much.  "The situation is made even more serious by the fact that the need for humanitarian assistance is increasing while our ability to respond is being ever more restricted", said Mr. da Silva.

The United Nations remains committed to the provision of humanitarian aid to all in need, regardless of ethnicity, gender or political affiliation, and it will do its best to continue the vital work it is doing in Darfur and the rest of the Sudan, OCHA says.

For further information, please call:  Imogen Wall, OCHA-Sudan, tel.:  +249 912 306 509; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, tel.:  +41 22 917 2653, mobile:  +41 79 473 4570.  OCHA press releases are available at  or .

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