World must step in to help Darfur after NGOs kicked out

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The international community must continue to work together to identify and fill the most immediately life-threatening gaps in Darfur in the wake of the ouster of 13 aid groups by the Sudanese Government, a top United Nations relief official says.
“Whatever our sense of outrage at the Government`s decision to remove, in such a fashion, organizations whose reputation and expertise have been built over years of dedicated service in humanitarian crises around the world, we must do all we can to prevent extra suffering for those in need as a result of this decision,” John Holmes told the Security Council in a closed-door meeting.
The UN News Centre says the decision to eject 13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and suspend the operations of three national NGOs was taken on 4 March, immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir.
Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the 15-member body on the findings of a joint assessment carried out in the war-torn Sudanese region in the wake of the Government`s action.
The assessment, carried out between 11 and 19 March and released earlier this week, discovered gaps in food aid; health and nutrition; non-food items and shelter; and water, sanitation and hygiene.
It also revealed that the lack of capacity on the ground to cover these gaps properly, despite the best efforts of those remaining in Darfur and various Government bodies, Holmes noted.
“In short, while these efforts can plug some of the biggest holes for the next few weeks, the cumulative effects over time of the removal of such a large amount of humanitarian capacity significantly increase the risks to well over a million people,” he warned.
“This is why we have been urging that the Government`s decision should be reversed.”
He added that the assessment provides only a “snapshot” and in no way provides a comprehensive picture of the overall humanitarian situation in Darfur, where conflict continues and 65 000 people have been newly displaced so far this year.
An estimated 300 000 people have died and another 3 million have been displaced in the region, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003.
Holmes stressed the urgent need to “re-establish an atmosphere of trust and mutual confidence with the Government,” which includes the need for a legal and technical framework for humanitarian work in the country that is consistently applied.
The risks of negative consequences of the Government`s decision also extend beyond Darfur into other parts of Sudan where NGOs play a critical role in the provision of life-saving assistance, as well as beyond Sudan into the sub-region, he warned.