Sudan: Other NGOs Ready to Move Into Darfur - Official

Khartoum — Several relief organisations from Arab and Asian countries have applied to work in the western Sudanese Darfur region to replace agencies expelled or stopped from working there, a senior official said.

"We have received many applications from Arab and Asian countries," Sudanese State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, said. "They want to go to Darfur."

The applicants include the Red Crescent Societies of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Several doctors and medical supplies were also being sent to Darfur.

Discussing Sudan's plans to replace the organisations expelled after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against President Omar el-Bashir on 4 March, Haroun said: "We have already begun the process."

Government confident

Darfur is baking hot for much of the year, but the upcoming rainy season will put extra pressure on already vulnerable communities, aid workers say.

According to the UN, Sudan does not have the ability to carry out the work of the expelled agencies.

However, said Haroun: "The assessment is not true, there is no evidence to support it on the ground."

Haroun is himself a war crimes suspect. A warrant was issued by the ICC in April 2007, detailing 51 charges of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004.

"The UN is not in a position to order or advise Sudan. They should just deal with the new situation on the ground."

Needs assessment

Sudanese government and UN officials were to travel on 11 March to Darfur for a week to assess the impact of the expulsion of aid agencies.

The assessment would be crucial in establishing how the country intends to address the key needs of some 2.7 million people displaced in Darfur. It would also provide some measure of the scale of the crisis and cover all three Darfur states.

"Three joint UN-government teams composed of experts from both sides will visit Darfur to conduct an assessment of critical short-term needs," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.

The Sudanese order to 13 international and three local NGOs to stop work is expected to leave an estimated 1.1 million people, especially in Darfur, without food; 1.5 million without healthcare and more than a million without drinking water.

The 16 agencies, according to OCHA, employed nearly 40 percent of the aid workers in Darfur - 6,500 national and international workers. In total, 7,610 humanitarian staff are affected in northern Sudan, including Darfur.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it had lost 35 percent of its food distribution capacity through the expulsion of four of its implementing partners - Save the Children USA, Action Against Hunger, Solidarités and Care International.

"WFP does not have the capacity to fill this gap," said spokeswoman Emilia Casella. "Unless the NGOs are allowed to resume their activities, people are going to go hungry."

Attacks

In Darfur, a UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrol was attacked on 9 March by unknown armed men, who fired at their vehicle with small arms. Four peacekeepers were wounded, one seriously.

A UNAMID vehicle was also carjacked by armed men in El-Fasher, while an observer on his way to El Daein, about 160km southeast of Nyala, South Darfur, was shot at by two men.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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