Growing restrictions on aid workers in Sudan's Darfur: UN

AFP , Wednesday 26 Mar 2014

Aid workers in many parts of Sudan's Darfur face increasing government restrictions on their movement despite a soaring number of people needing help after recent violence, a senior UN official said Wednesday.

"At the moment, we're hearing reports of new displacement every day in North Darfur," the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"Every time we hear these reports, we request access. On almost all occasions, we're not permitted," leaving aid workers essentially confined to the state capital El Fasher, the official said.

The United Nations estimated 215,000 people have been displaced in Darfur this year -- many of them in North Darfur -- bringing the total to around two million.

But the official said access restrictions mean verification of the exact number in need is difficult.

"We're not able to get to them to determine how much aid they need, and to deliver the aid," he said.

There are "limited pockets" of access in Darfur but these are mostly around the South Darfur state capital, Nyala, the source added.

Authorities say access restrictions are necessary to ensure the safety of aid workers.

"There is no government that would obstruct humanitarian assistance," Ali Adam, a director general with Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission, told a visiting UN delegation last week.

"Sudan is a partner of the international community."

Access to Darfur for foreign journalists is also tightly controlled.

The latest displacements follow the uprooting last year of 380,000 people, more than in any year since the height of Darfur's conflict in 2004, the UN says.

Sources in the area say militiamen have been suspected in many of the recent attacks, in which villages and even a camp for displaced people have been reported burned and looted.

Anti-government rebels also seized some areas in recent weeks.

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