Darfur More Vulnerable as Aid Groups Evacuate

An escalation in violence against aid workers early December and heightened insecurity have forced 250 humanitarian staff serving nearly half a million people to temporarily evacuate Darfur, according to a report on Sunday.

The joint report by World Vision, Concern Worldwide, Goal, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam International stated that international aid agencies working in Darfur are facing “unprecedented difficulties,” including increased military activity, banditry and direct violence against aid workers.

“The whole region is increasingly complex and uncertain,” said Patty Swahn, the International Rescue Committee’s regional director, in a statement Friday. “While we all remain fully committed to helping the people of Darfur, frequent evacuations of programs are making it incredibly difficult to deliver aid effectively.”

The humanitarian agencies demanded that, “All parties must urgently agree – and maintain – a ceasefire with immediate effect. They must ensure that aid workers are able to reach people in need.”

The United Nations has called the violence in Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It estimates that over 200,000 people have been killed, more than 2.5 million people displaced and over 3.5 million affected by the conflict over a period of three years. The Khartoum government is accused of supporting the Janjaweed, which is responsible for widespread attacks against civilians in Darfur.

Recently, violence in Darfur has spread into Chad, causing fear that a regional conflict might break out.

Other Christian agencies working in Darfur include the ACT (Action by Churches Together), Caritas, and Darfur Emergency Response Operation (DERO), which is one of the largest humanitarian programs operating in south and west Darfur. ACT and Caritas are working with national members Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), Sudanaid, and the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO) to implement the programs.

A Caritas staff on Nov. 13 confirmed that the organization was still working in Darfur.

Other ACT members, such as Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid, are also supporting efforts in Darfur.