23 May 2013

Sudan: UN Under-Secretary General 'Shocked' After Visiting Darfur Camp

Khartoum — Following her four-day visit to Sudan, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator is determined "not to let Darfur slip off the radar screen of the international community".

During her visit from Monday to Thursday this week, Baroness Valerie Amos met with President Omar Al Bashir and senior Government officials in Khartoum and Darfur, as well as UN agencies, NGOs and humanitarian organisations. On Wednesday, she visited Zamzam camp for displaced people in North Darfur.

"The purpose of my visit to Sudan was twofold," Baroness Amos explained in a statement on Thursday; "first, to look at humanitarian operations in the country; and second - given the sometimes difficult relations between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations on humanitarian issues - to work to build trust and confidence so that we are in a stronger position to help meet the humanitarian needs of people in Sudan.

"Since my arrival, I have had a chance to see first-hand the humanitarian situation in Darfur," she said. "I was particularly shocked when we visited some of the new arrivals in (Zamzam) camp. I saw people who had recently fled fighting in South Darfur sheltering under small pieces of tarpaulin in the hot desert sun, in desperate conditions."

"Aid agencies struggling to cope"

Amos highlighted the UN estimate that 300,000 people fled fighting in Darfur during the first five months of this year - more than the total number of people displaced in the last two years put together. This is an extremely worrying situation and it is clear that humanitarian aid agencies are struggling to cope, she said.

"We cannot let Darfur slip off the radar screen of the international community. With 1.4 million people still living in camps, and a majority of the people in Darfur still suffering from inadequate access to basic health care, education and other services, the challenges remain enormous.

"Hundreds of thousands of children all over Darfur were born in camps and have never known life outside these camps. We cannot forget these children. They are the future of Darfur and of Sudan."

"Rebel movements responsible for similar crimes"

"The UN and the international community have in the past condemned the Government of Sudan when there have been reports of armed attacks targeting or affecting civilians, as we do everywhere else in the world," she said.

"However, it is important to note that rebel movements in Sudan are also responsible for similar crimes. I was shocked to hear detailed reports of the recent attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Sudan Revolutionary Front in Northern Kordofan and parts of South Kordofan. I condemn these attacks on civilians in the strongest terms."

"Once again it is the civilians who are paying the biggest price in this war," Amos concludes. "I call on the parties to stop the fighting and to resolve their disputes by peaceful means. And above all, I call on the parties to protect civilians and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law."

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