Two senior United Nations relief officials today called on the Government of Sudan to renew the work permits for international aid workers based in Darfur so they can resume protection and assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in the region.
Of the 37 international staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) based in Darfur, only 17 currently have valid permits to continue their work. Permits in the other 20 cases have not been renewed, despite extended follow-up by UNHCR with the relevant Government authorities.
In a joint statement issued in Khartoum, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ali Al-Za'tari and UNHCR Representative Kai Nielsen voiced their regret that humanitarian activities for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur have had to be scaled down as a result of the non-renewal of the work permits.
They noted that UNHCR's work in North Darfur has been particularly affected. None of the UNHCR international staff based in the state capital of El Fasher have been granted permits to return, with the last remaining staff having been asked to leave at short notice in early July.
"The result is that for over a month, UNHCR has been unable to effectively undertake protection and assistance activities for IDPs in North Darfur," they stated.
There are currently some two million IDPs in Darfur, of whom 1.2 million live in camps. There have been almost 300,000 new IDPs this year alone, including a third of them within and from North Darfur.
The officials pointed out that the humanitarian situation in Darfur remains "critical" both for long-term IDPs and for those who have been newly displaced as a result of recent fighting.
"The inability of UNHCR to continue implementing its activities will directly impact projects related to health, education, basic services and livelihoods, the provision of emergency shelter and non-food items, and on the verification of returnees."
They called on the Sudanese Government to renew the permits for all UNHCR staff so as to allow the agency to fully resume its activities in Darfur.