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Aid Expulsions Sparks Fears for Darfur Camps

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Aid expulsions spark fears for Darfur camps

Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:05pm GMT

By Andrew Heavens KHARTOUM (Reuters) –

Aid officials and diplomats on Thursday said there were fears of growing humanitarian crises in three Darfur refugee camps, after Sudan’s wanted president shut down 16 aid groups. Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir expelled 13 foreign aid organisations and closed three local groups this month, accusing them of helping the International Criminal Court issue an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes in Darfur. The groups deny working with the court. Aid officials told Reuters there was a risk of fresh disease outbreaks in south Darfur’s Kalma and Kass camps after residents refused to let state-backed aid agencies come in to replace the expelled humanitarian groups. The U.S. embassy in Khartoum released a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Zamzam camp in north Darfur, where the expulsions have coincided with an influx of 36,000 people fleeing recent fighting. The expulsions of groups including Oxfam, Save the Children and Care sparked international outrage. U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned the Sudanese government would be held accountable for every life lost as a result of the reduction of humanitarian cover. Sudanese government aid officials said the expelled groups’ work would be covered by surviving international organisations and scores of local groups that authorities were planning to bring into the area.

“TOOLS OF GOVERNMENT”

But Hussein Abu Sharati, who says he represents Darfuri refugees in 158 camps, said Kalma residents had met and voted to refuse all aid from Sudanese groups. “They don’t see these groups as aid organisations, they see them as tools of the government,” he told Reuters by satellite phone. “IDPs (internally displaced people) in Kalma and Kass are refusing all access to the government and local aid groups even if it means receiving less water or a greater risk of disease,” said an aid worker from one of the ousted organisations, speaking on condition of anonymity. The workers said residents had blocked all state deliveries of fuel for their own generators, set up to pump fresh water in to the camp, raising the risk of the spread of diseases like cholera.

Camp leaders were also refusing to let Ministry of Health officials vaccinate residents against a new meningitis outbreak, he added. Kalma and Kass are home to tens of thousands of people who fled their homes after raids and attacks by government troops and militias during the Darfur conflict. The U.S. embassy said there was a growing water and land shortage in North Darfur’s Zamzam camp after the arrival of 36,000 people fleeing clashes between rebels and government fighters. The shortage had been “exacerbated” by the expulsions, it said, urging Sudan’s government to work out a plan with the United Nations and surviving aid groups “before the humanitarian situation deteriorates any further”. International experts say almost six years of fighting has uprooted 2.7 million people. Many of the camps that have taken them in have become highly politicised.

A joint U.N./Sudan government assessment mission into the impact of the expulsions, which hit aid programmes across north Sudan, was due to return to Khartoum late on Thursday. Darfur’s joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force has said it is ready to do what it can to fill any humanitarian gaps left by the expulsions. Aid workers have been concerned about suggestions the peacekeepers might take on humanitarian work in Sudan. “Gradually the line between peacekeepers and aid workers gets blurred and then everyone becomes a fair target,” said one. Armed men attacked an UNAMID patrol in South Darfur this week, killing one Nigerian peacekeeper. Five workers for the Belgian arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres were kidnapped in North Darfur last week and held for three days by a group that, government officials said, was protesting against the International Criminal Court

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Written by torit1955

March 20, 2009 at 9:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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