Sudan: Concerns rising over Darfur restrictions
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||24 June 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Sudan: Concerns rising over Darfur restrictions, 24 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48626124c.html [accessed 30 September 2014]|
KHARTOUM, 24 June 2008 (IRIN) - On a UN map of Darfur released this month, a patchwork of yellow and orange denotes locations with little or no humanitarian access. Compared with maps of previous years, vast new regions are labelled off-limits.
Humanitarian workers say that in terms of security and attacks on staff, the situation for aid agencies in Darfur has never been as bad as in the past 18 months, and their ability to reach people in need is at an all-time low.
"When it comes to hijackings, compound invasions, office invasions, attacks on humanitarians, abduction of humanitarians - in the first six months of this year the statistics are the same as for all of last year," Mike McDonagh, chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Sudan, told reporters in Khartoum on 22 June.
"Vehicles are getting hijacked at the rate of almost one a day," Alun McDonald, a public information officer for OXFAM, told IRIN by email.
In some areas, the reach of humanitarian aid has been curtailed or eliminated entirely because of restricted movement. In May, after repeated hijackings prevented the delivery of food to Darfur, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reduced rations by 42 percent - a decision that affected 2.7 million Darfuris.
"We do have food stocks in Port Sudan, Khartoum, El Obeid. Really the problem is taking this food into Darfur," said Kenro Oshidari, the WFP representative in Sudan.
Oshidari said that although the Sudanese government had promised escorts to protect shipments of food into Darfur every 48 hours, these had not materialised and would be insufficient as trucks needed to move every day.
"Reinstatement of full rations will only happen when we're assured of safe access and safe passage of the convoys to the destination," said Ameera Haq, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sudan.
NGOs are struggling to adapt humanitarian programmes to the restricted conditions. According to a June 2008 NGO briefing paper, the majority of humanitarian travel in Darfur is now via UN air services. Funding normally allocated to humanitarian programmes has subsequently been spent on higher operating costs.
"We have to fly staff all over Darfur virtually every day and it costs us over $100,000 a year," said McDonald. "The Darfur crisis is five years old and it's becoming harder to raise funds, so every penny is vital."
Repeated evacuations and programme suspensions have also led to the "remote management" of projects, McDonald said, where village committees or individuals are trained to deliver aid and later report back to the agency, or an "in and out" approach, when areas temporarily become safer.
Quality of aid declining
But despite these efforts, the amount and quality of aid is decreasing for many of the vulnerable in Darfur.
"It's really an issue about the quality of aid - when we have to go in, drop it and leave, there's little time for proper assessments and analysis and monitoring," said McDonald.
"It also makes it harder to set up longer-term programmes. And naturally, if you only have a few days, then you prioritise the emergency life-saving aid like food and medicine, and don't have time to do other hugely important assistance such as education and long-term livelihoods projects.
"It keeps people going, but no more," said McDonald.
On 22 June, the UN told reporters at a joint agency briefing that a "perfect storm" of factors, including the lack of humanitarian access, overcrowding in camps, limited water resources and a poor cereal harvest would likely lead to significant hardship.
"Four years into a massive operation where a half million tonnes of food has gone in every year, where on average a thousand expatriates have been on the ground with their 15,000 national colleagues, this is the year I think where we are going to see a reduction in [health] indicators as a result of this perfect storm," said McDonagh.
See also National staff, local partners carry the load in dangerous environment