(Khartoum, 30 November 2008): John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, concluded his six day visit to Sudan by reiterating the importance of protection of civilians and urging improved cooperation with the Government of Sudan in facilitating humanitarian assistance in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan.
The ERC commended the GoS on the decision to extend the Moratorium on Fast Track Procedures for humanitarian workers in Darfur until 31 January 2010, and looked forward to rapid progress on its practical application. He also looked forward to further practical cooperation on the ground to enhance the delivery of vital assistance for 4.7 million conflict affected people, and to help humanitarian organizations to operate in Darfur, for example through easier visa procedures for NGO workers.
“What we need above all in Darfur is a comprehensive ceasefire followed by a rapid peace settlement. But as long as we don’t have peace so that people can return home, the humanitarian response will be needed,” said Mr.Holmes. “The key issue remains protection on all levels; protection of civilians particularly women and children, safety and security for aid workers and respect for the fundamental principles of humanitarianism to enable us to continue assisting those affected by conflict and natural disaster,” added Mr. Holmes.
During his visit, Mr. Holmes held meetings with the Government, UN agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, and donors. He visited all three Darfur states to see at first hand the humanitarian situation. Darfur remains the largest humanitarian operation in the world, where UN agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and NGOs work jointly with government in efforts to assist 4.7 million conflict affected people, including 2.7 million internally displaced. Of the 16,400 humanitarian aid workers in Darfur, ninety-four percent are Sudanese citizens.
The ERC also emphasized the challenging security environment which Darfur poses. So far this year we have seen 11 killed; 261 vehicles hijacked; 172 assaults on premises; 35 ambushes/lootings of convoys; 189 staff abducted; 28 wounded; and 25 relocations.
“Our ability to continue to assist people is hampered if humanitarians also become the victims of attacks. It is unacceptable that we have double the attacks on aid workers than we had this time last year. The GoS have a responsibility to protect humanitarian workers, but it is the rebel movements and those linked to them who appear to be responsible for most of these attacks. I call on them to stop this kind of banditry and criminality once and for all,” said the ERC.
Whilst in Darfur, Mr. Holmes visited Kalma camp in south Darfur as well as Hamadiya and Taiba camps near Zalingei in East West Darfur. Both areas have suffered huge environmental degradation resulting in part from the ongoing conflict.
“In a long-running complex emergency, protecting the environment becomes also a part of the humanitarian mission,” added Mr. Holmes. “We cannot simply wait to take action until after a political settlement is reached as it will be too late.”
The Emergency Relief Coordinator also visited those displaced by violent confrontations in Abyei and met the new Abyei Administrator and his deputy, who now have to implement the roadmap on steps to restore normality, assure security and reconciliation between communities, and enable the displaced to return to the town.
On a two day visit to Juba, the ERC was updated on the enormous challenges facing the south. He urged donors to continue their funding to confront critical humanitarian and recovery issues, particularly in the health sector, and encouraged the Government of Southern Sudan themselves to step up their efforts to provide basic services and develop key sectors such as agriculture.
On 20 November, the United Nations and Partners Workplan 2009 for Sudan was launched requesting $2.2 billion overall across ten critical sectors.
For further information, please call: Orla Clinton, OCHA Sudan, 00 249 912174454. Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570. OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or http://www.reliefweb.int.