Sudan

Sudan says Darfur humanitarian conditions improved

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KHARTOUM, June 2 (Reuters) - The humanitarian situation in Darfur is at its best in more than two years, Sudan said on Saturday, although aid officials say conditions on the ground remain dire.

"The humanitarian situation in Darfur is at its best in more than two years," Abdul Rahman Abudom, a senior adviser at the ministry of humanitarian affairs, told reporters.

Sudanese media needed to report the facts on the ground rather than relying on Western news agencies, he said. Sudan says Western media have inflated the Darfur crisis.

Conflict between government-backed militias and rebel groups in Darfur has driven 2.5 million from their homes, creating what the United Nations has referred to as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Aid officials and international experts estimate some 200,000 have been killed, a figure Sudan's government contests.

Aid workers say an array of government restrictions coupled with deteriorating security conditions, including attacks on personnel and banditry, continue to impede their access to the needy.

"In terms of our ability to get to the people: that's the worst it's been in three years," said British aid agency Oxfam spokesman Alun McDonald.

He said it was unrealistic to suggest the situation was improving when some 2.5 million Darfuris who fled the fighting are still languishing in miserable camps with little hope of return to their homes anytime soon.

"There are still 4 million people who are dependent on aid agencies four years into the war," he said.

Humanitarian affairs minister, Kosti Manibe, speaking at the same news conference as Abudom, pointed to agreements for easier access for aid workers to Darfur signed by the government with the U.N. as proof of its intention to facilitate access to those in need.

According to the agreement, which many aid workers complain is not fully implemented, humanitarian workers can get entry visas within 48 hours and are allowed freedom of movement within Darfur.

Manibe said he had just returned from a trip to Darfur, and had noticed that conditions for those in the camps had improved.

"For the first time, I did not hear as many complaints as in the past about access and these sorts of things."

He said the government was working hard to improve access for the world's largest humanitarian operation with around 14,000 aid workers in the remote west.

"We are doing everything possible," he told reporters.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of marginalising arid Darfur. Khartoum mobilised militias to quell the revolt, which the United States says are responsible for genocide, a charge Khartoum rejects.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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