Darfur aid workers in peril, UN says
|The New York Times, 09 Août 2006|
DAKAR, Senegal More aid workers have been killed in Darfur in the past month than in the previous three years of conflict in that troubled Sudanese region, according to the United Nations.
Eight workers, all Sudanese, were killed in July in attacks across Darfur, the United Nations said, compared with only six from 2003, when the conflict began, through June.
"The level of violence being faced by humanitarian workers in Darfur is unprecedented," Manuel Aranda da Silva, the top UN aid official in Sudan, said in a statement Tuesday.
The violence has already contracted the scope of aid operations, depriving tens of thousands of people of food handouts, medical care and clean water. Beyond that, the deepening chaos imperils the effort to help millions of other displaced people in the region, officials of aid groups that work there say.
A UN map of no-go areas is covered with blotches of orange, indicating vast areas where aid workers cannot reach people trapped in camps and villages. About 14,000 workers are in Darfur, 1,000 of them foreigners.
The spike in violence has occurred as the peace agreement signed in May has faltered. The pact was supposed to end the fighting in a conflict between non- Arab rebel groups and the Arab-dominated central government, from which the rebel groups sought greater autonomy and more of Sudan's wealth for the long-neglected Darfur region.
But the landscape has grown more perilous since the pact was signed in Nigeria. On Monday, the rebel leader who signed it, Minni Arcu Minnawi, became the senior assistant to the president, as stipulated by the agreement.
The latest fighting in North Darfur has routed 25,000 people from their homes amid allegations that Minnawi's troops were carrying out raids to try to punish other rebel groups that had not signed the agreement.
Minnawi met with President George W. Bush in Washington on July 25, after the release of a UN report that said Minnawi's troops were "indiscriminately killing, raping women and abducting."
Elements of the two groups that did not sign, the Justice and Equality Movement and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, have formed the National Redemption Front, which is firmly opposed to the peace pact.
The crowded refugee camps in Darfur and eastern Chad, where 2.5 million people live, have become anxious and turbulent, making aid work in them dangerous.
"Since the signing of the agreement, Darfur has become increasingly tense and violent," Paul Smith-Lomas, regional director of Oxfam, an aid group with a large presence in Darfur, said in a statement. The declining security situation, he added, "has led to the tragic deaths of far too many civilians and aid workers."