Sudanese agencies should plug Darfur aid gap


Sudanese aid agencies must be helped to fill in the huge gaps left in Darfur’s aid operation by the expulsion of 13 humanitarian organisations last year, Oxfam America said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in March last year for war crimes in Darfur. He responded by expelling the major aid agencies from Darfur, leaving a hole in the world’s largest humanitarian operation.

Oxfam America was one of the small agencies left in Sudan which had to step up its work to fill the gap, but country director El Fateh Osman Adam said there was still much to do.
“We worked hard to address the immediate life-saving issues, provide water, sanitation,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“If it was not provided we may have seen humanitarian catastrophe,” he said. “But there are gaps in a number of areas, livelihood protection and nobody is talking about education.”

In 2010 the agency’s annual budget will reach $6 million, a massive jump from the 2008/09 funds of $1.5 million.

Sister agency Oxfam GB was one of the largest and oldest agencies working in Sudan before being expelled last year.

The crisis in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglecting their region, prompted the world’s largest aid effort.

A counter insurgency campaign by the Khartoum government brought about a humanitarian crisis which the United Nations estimates has claimed 300 000 lives.

Adam said his organisation’s priority was to support Sudanese aid agencies to one day take the lead in the humanitarian operation in their own country.
“It’s not something that will happen in one day we have to have the patience until we build the capacity of our local partners,” he said.
“The expulsion showed that you can suddenly lose everything but if you are supporting other (local) actors then what you have done can continue.”

Adam said international aid agencies, the United Nations and the Sudanese government should all work to help local organisations to lead the aid effort themselves.

He said the exit of the agencies left gaps elsewhere in Africa’s largest country, including the east, where Oxfam America hoped to open operations in the future.
“There are huge needs in the east which we need to respond to,” he said, adding poverty, water and food security were areas which needed attention in the arid east of Sudan.

East Sudan saw the end of a smaller insurgency with a 2006 peace deal but has seen little peace dividend, remaining one of the poorest areas in the country, despite housing the major port which exports Sudan’s oil.