Sudan: Doctor Kouchner, be careful with Darfur

Paris, 22 June 2007, On the eve of the ministerial meeting of the enlarged International Contact Group on Darfur, which is due to take place in Paris on Monday June 25th, at the initiative of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner, we would like to say that any initiatives to be taken, however welcome they may be, must be considered in the light of the consequences that they may have on the Darfur population.

For the past 3 years, SOLIDARITES has carried out a large humanitarian operation in Darfur, with a team of over 300 expatriate and Sudanese aid workers. We would like to emphasize the following points:

- Despite the fact that a very large-scale humanitarian operation is being carried out in Darfur by over 10,000 expatriate and Sudanese aid workers via an air-bridge and a land-bridge, enabling aid to be provided to 2.1 million displaced persons and many of the 2 million other residents who are in need, serious problems still exist.

- The number of displaced persons continues to rise (an additional 300,000 in one year according to UNOCHA estimates on April 1st), many refugee camps are overcrowded, for example Nyala, and essential resources are in short supply, for example drinking water at El Fasher or Seleah, where there is a 12 hour queue to fill a jerry can.

- The rainy season has started and will continue until November, and it is therefore essential that large-scale distributions of seeds (millet, sorghum...) and food rations to farmers commence immediately. This is vital and urgent.

- Aid workers are not able to reach all those who are vulnerable or under attack, and there have been many security incidents.

- Although the international humanitarian effort is significant, it is no longer sufficient to counter the cumulative negative consequences affecting the victims of this conflict.

Therefore, we make the following appeal:

- Humanitarian aid in Darfur is not sufficiently mobile. Therefore, why not set up a "rapid response" type mechanism with experienced, independant humanitarian organisations (UN, NGO, ICRC) who have freight helicopters and pre-positioned stock points?

- We ask of Bernard Kouchner that all political actions for peace may serve the purposes of humanitarian relief and not the contrary. We maintain that it is essential that there be a sanctuary for humanitarian aid, to enable sufficient aid to reach vulnerable populations, until a political solution for long-term peace which we all hope for can be found.

Press contacts: Alain Boinet - O6 82 59 29 O7 or Sophie Ghaleb - 01 43 15 13 13
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