From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 13:33:14 EST
U.N. says paralysed in Sudan without aid partners
Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:33pm GMT
* U.N. says half of Darfur aid affected by NGO expulsions
* Agencies warn of hunger, disease, exposure to conflict
* U.N. and Sudan government experts to survey Darfur needs
By Laura MacInnis GENEVA, March 10 (Reuters) - The United Nations relies so
heavily on outside groups to deliver aid in Darfur that Sudan's expulsion of
16 non-governmental organisations has paralysed as much as half of its
programmes, officials said on Tuesday.
While the World Food Programme, World Health Organisation and UNICEF were
not among those ordered out after a Hague court issued a war crimes warrant
for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the U.N. agencies lost a lot
of manpower when their aid partners were shut down last week.
The expelled groups -- whose computers, cars and equipment were also
confiscated by Sudanese authorities -- employed 6,500 aid workers in Darfur,
where 4.7 million people rely on foreign assistance for food, shelter and
protection from fighting.
"Roughly 50 percent of aid delivery is affected," Elisabeth Byrs,
spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, told reporters in Geneva. "The expulsions will have immediate
effects for some distributions, and in the coming weeks for others."
PEOPLE "FACE DEVASTATION"
Bashir said the 13 foreign and three local NGOs were closed because they
"threatened the security of Sudan" and helped the International Criminal
Court issue his arrest warrant for crimes against humanitary and war crimes
The expelled groups, including Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres, deny his
claim and have warned that Darfuris made homeless by almost six years of
conflict could face devastation if aid programmes are not restarted quickly.
Sudan says it is looking at how to get the warrant suspended or quashed.
U.N. agencies said they could not fill the gap left by their NGO partners
who handed out food aid, monitored for disease outbreaks, and provided clean
water and health care across Darfur, a remote region roughly the size of
Four of the shuttered NGOs -- CARE International, Save the Children U.S.,
Action Contre La Faim and Solidarites -- had distributed a third of the
World Food Programme's aid in Darfur, regularly reaching 1.1 million people
in 130 locations.
"The WFP and other humanitarian agencies do not have the capacity to fill
such a large gap," spokeswoman Emilia Casella told reporters. "Unless NGOs
can operate normally, people will go hungry, thirsty, and growing numbers of
sick and malnourished will go untreated."
Vaccination programmes and efforts to detect outbreaks of measles, cholera,
and malaria in Darfur will also be interrupted due to the NGO expulsions,
according to Fadela Chaib of the World Health Organisation. "Their absence
will weigh very heavily on many programmes," she said.
And UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau said many aid groups had been
working in parts of Darfur that are now not accessible to the U.N. agencies,
raising risks that needy people will not get further assistance.
Although Sudan's ambassador to the U.N. said last week that his government
would have no problem filling in any gaps in aid distribution due to the
expulsions, officials have questioned whether the African state has the
capacity to do so.
Byrs said on Tuesday that without a quick return of the NGOs, some 1.5
million people in Darfur will lack health care, 1.6 million will lose safe
drinking water and hygiene services, and hundreds of thousands will risk
inadequate shelter and other problems with the coming onset of Sudan's rainy
Three joint teams of U.N. and Sudanese government experts are scheduled to
survey conditions in Darfur on Wednesday to assess the impact of the aid
groups' expulsion, she said.
The WFP is planning an unusual one-off distribution of two months' worth of
food to areas previously served by the NGOs, spokeswoman Casella said. But
she warned that it would be difficult to ensure that food is handed out
evenly and fairly.
(Editing by Richard Balmforth)
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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