UN: 110 000 displaced in Darfur in early 2007

More than 110 000 people were displaced in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur in the first three months of 2007 as armed confrontations pitting rebels against government forces and their allies continued, a United Nations report said.

Those confrontations included a renewal of air attacks, militia attacks on civilians, increasingly violent inter-tribal fighting and frequent road banditry, the report said.

The fragmentation of Darfur rebel groups had also led to increased insecurity, as it was hard to know who was in command where. Difficulties obtaining guarantees of safe passage were complicating humanitarian access.

“The first three months of 2007 confirmed the trend of widespread insecurity that intensified after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement on May 5 2006,” said the UN report on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, seen by Reuters on Friday.

“Between January and March 2007, over 110 000 people have been newly displaced throughout Darfur, 80 000 in south Darfur alone,” it said. Numbers had also dropped in some areas.

The report put the total number of internally displaced people within Darfur at 2,1-million, a new high, and said some of those forced to flee recently had been displaced for the second or third time.
More than 200 000 Darfur refugees are also sitting in camps in neighbouring Chad.

The UN says more than 200 000 people have been killed in Darfur since ethnic and political conflict there flared in 2003. Sudan puts the number of dead at roughly 9 000.

Khartoum accepted a UN support package of 3 000 military personnel to help 7 000 African Union peacekeepers who have been unable to quell the violence. The UN and the AU want to complete that with a “hybrid” force that would include more than 20 000 troops. Khartoum has not agreed.

Humanitarian access declines

Twenty-one humanitarian vehicles were hijacked in the first three months of the year while five attempts were thwarted, and Sudanese and Chadian rebels often hijacked the vehicles in order to use them in combat, the report said.

Another 15 convoys were ambushed or looted in the same period, and gunmen broke into six humanitarian compounds.

The number of relief workers in Darfur declined by 16% to 12 300 in the 12 months to April due to security concerns, restrictions on access and funding limits, the report said.

The decline in humanitarian access was harming programmes such as healthcare, although major epidemics had so far been averted.

“However, these achievements cannot be safeguarded much longer in the face of the non-stop insecurity and violence against the civilian population and aid workers,” the report said.

It put the total number of people affected by the conflict in Darfur at 4,2-million.

The UN also said that it had conveyed “grave concern” to the Sudanese government about media attacks on its spokesperson in Khartoum, Radhia Achouri.

The UN mission in Sudan “strongly objects to the personalised and malicious nature of these attacks, which have included veiled threats against her”, a statement said.—Reuters

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