UNAMID announces major humanitarian initiative to expand humanitarian access in North and West Darfur

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EL FASHER, 1 May 2011—Joint Special Representative (JSR) of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Professor Ibrahim Gambari, today announced a project designed to significantly increase accessibility for humanitarian agencies to meet the needs of hard-to-reach communities in conflict-affected areas of Darfur.

Dubbed Operation Spring Basket, the project organized by UNAMID and the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA) will take place for about three weeks, with visits to several villages which have been inaccessible to humanitarian workers for some time. “I can assure you that this will be an ongoing process, the humanitarian community will follow up in order to deliver humanitarian relief to those in need,” JSR Gambari stated.

The Mission has been working for months with the Government of the Sudan and non-signatory movements to open access to areas in the Jebel Marra region and other parts of North and West Darfur, which UN agencies believe may be in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“One of the foremost priorities for UNAMID is facilitating safe and free access for humanitarian agencies and NGOs into areas that are suffering from conflict and difficult to reach because of it,” JSR Gambari told media in El Fasher on his return from En Siro and Kutum.

“We have undertaken intense negotiations and outreach to secure access to these areas, which are controlled by various parties. We will provide security and logistical support to the humanitarian community intending to bring assistance to the region, regardless of who controls the territory.”

A joint UNAMID and humanitarian team on Sunday visited Kutum and En Siro in North Darfur, the first of several planned visits to include Tok Jau, Saraon, Malagat, Sortony, Kaguro and Golo. The agencies used the occasion to assess the needs of the affected populations for further delivery of assistance.

Humanitarian communities working in Darfur continue to face challenges in accessing populations affected by conflict. The vastness of territory, lack of physical and social infrastructure, poor road conditions, erratic security and blockages posed by the parties have conspired to limit the “humanitarian space” which the UN can enter to serve needy communities.

Operation Spring Basket has been undertaken with the principle that humanitarian relief must be delivered regardless of military activities taking place and irrespective of the political or ideological affiliations of parties controlling territory.

“The UN Country Team and UNAMID have established a partnership on the ground to deliver humanitarian relief to those who are in need,” JSR Gambari said. “We are fully committed to ensuring the protection of civilians where we can implement UNAMID’s core mandate of protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian delivery.”