Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

Sudan: "Hungry people are desperate people"

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 23 March 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Sudan: "Hungry people are desperate people", 23 March 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49cb32f9a.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

JUBA, 23 March 2009 (IRIN) - The recent upsurge in violence in Darfur could be linked to pressure on already stretched services after the expulsion or closure of 16 key aid agencies, sources said.

At least 26 people died in fighting between the Habaniya and Al-Falata ethnic groups in South Darfur on 14 March. Government officials said the fighting was sparked by cattle raiding.

The Sudanese Media Center reported that government forces had been deployed in the area and local leaders had been called to "discuss proposals for resolving the conflict".

"We are increasingly concerned at the situation," said one aid worker in Darfur, who requested anonymity. "There is a massive humanitarian gap left by the NGO expulsion. Hungry people are desperate people."

Sudan expelled 13 international aid agencies and shut down three Sudanese NGOs shortly after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar el-Bashir on 4 March on war crimes charges.

Bashir denies all the charges.

Aid workers fear the crunch will come in a few weeks as supplies run low. At the same time, it is feared that waterborne infectious diseases, such as cholera, could increase in the coming rainy season. Many basic services, such as maintaining boreholes, were run by the expelled agencies.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has started a "one-off distribution of two months' food rations to beneficiaries in areas formerly covered by the expelled NGOs", the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

"This, however, is unsustainable in the long run due to limited capacity and the need for monitoring and accountability," OCHA warned on 22 March.

Influx

The situation in some areas of Darfur, say aid workers, is deteriorating. Zam Zam camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in North Darfur, for example, faces an acute crisis if urgent measures are not taken, the US embassy in Khartoum warned in a statement.

The camp has received some 36,000 new arrivals fleeing fighting in South Darfur.

"There is a growing water shortage due to the demand created by recent IDP arrivals and the lack of available water resources at the camp," an embassy spokesman said. "In addition, the influx of new IDPs has created a need for more land to accommodate the overflow."

In the south, Western Bahr el Ghazal State is experiencing an influx of those displaced from neighbouring South Darfur, according to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

The Famine Early Warning System network (FEWS Net), in a March update, warned of the potential movement of 1.5 million displaced Darfurians into Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal, due to disruptions in humanitarian assistance. This, it added, would present a severe threat to food security in the two states.

"The most likely movements would be from the southern parts of Darfur into Northern Bahr el Ghazal," it noted. "Though the number of potential IDPs is unclear, even small inflows could have a severe impact on food security in localised areas."

Already, 250,000 people in Northern and Western Bahr el Gazal were already moderately food-insecure; peak food shortages typically occur between April and August.

According to FEWS Net, the impact of the influx on host populations in Western Bahr el Gazal's Raga County might not be evident within the first few months but it could be devastating over a longer period because the area was sparsely populated.

A large IDP population could quickly exhaust existing resources, while a significant inflow could make Northern and Western Bahr el Gazal highly or extremely food-insecure.

Tensions

Aid workers fear increased tensions could further complicate the situation in Darfur. Earlier this month, a joint UN-African Union peacekeeper was killed and three wounded in separate attacks. 

Three foreign staff of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF-Belgium) were also held hostage for three days. According to specialists, communities could turn against each other as resources previously provided by NGOs disappear.

Rashid Khalikov, OCHA New York director, told the UN Security Council on 20 March there was an "atmosphere of fear and uncertainty facing all aid organisations".

The absence of health workers to carry out immunisations, he warned, would affect the prevention of the spread of meningitis in Jebel Mara and Kalma refugee camps.

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