Sudan: Humanitarian access to Darfur region agreed

News and Press Release
Originally published
(New York: 17 September 2003) - The Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) signed an agreement today that would allow "free and unimpeded" humanitarian access to Sudan's Darfur region, which covers some 20 per cent of that country's territory.
The humanitarian situation in Darfur has deteriorated over the past six months due in part to fighting and banditry that has resulted in the displacement of large numbers of civilians. There had been reports of deliberate attacks against civilians by armed groups. Access constraints caused by both fighting and adverse weather conditions brought on by the rainy season had caused a sharp reduction in the number of people who were able to receive aid. UN humanitarian agencies hope to regain access to all of the 500,000 people who had been receiving aid receiving aid before the access constraints began in March.

The Government of Sudan estimates that most of the estimated 223,000 internally displaced persons in Darfur have been displaced since the beginning of this year. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that another 65,000 people have fled into Chad from Darfur since April. The refugees are mainly living in villages along Sudan's border with Chad, where they have little access to clean water, food, or health care. No humanitarian aid is currently being provided to them.

On 15 September, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan Mr. Tom Vraalsen and the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mr. Mukesh Kapila announced a plan for future humanitarian operations called the "Greater Darfur Special Initiative". The objectives of the initiative are to accelerate humanitarian relief provision to the most vulnerable population groups; to help defuse immediate triggers to violence through 'quick start-peace impact' (QS-PIP) measures; and to assist Sudanese stakeholders to build confidence and begin addressing the longer-term underlying factors that generate conflict. The United Nations seeks US$ 22.8 million for this Greater Darfur Special Initiative.

Historically, the Greater Darfur Region had a vibrant local economy, which was highly diversified. The economy comprised agricultural production, livestock, forestry, small scale and processing industries, financial, trade, transport and marketing activities. But the region has had progressively worsening droughts over recent years, with increased desertification. Livelihoods have suffered with forced migration as one consequence. Competition between pastoral and settled communities for scarce resources have created conflict and inter-tribal disputes, exacerbated by lack of basic services, inter-tribal disputes, weak systems of governance with little community participation, and guarantees for the protection of human rights. The three Darfur States are now among the poorest and most neglected in the Sudan, with some of the lowest human development indicators in Sudan as measured by the targets for the Millennium Development Goals.

For further information, please call Brian Grogan 212 963-1143 (OCHA NY)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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