Humanitarians concerned over death, looting in Darfur

Aid workers assist residents of Kalma camp in Nyala who will return to their homes in West Darfur. A local aid worker was killed on July 4 after a rocket-propelled grenade hit an international organization's office in Nyala. Photo by: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID / CC BY-NC-ND

The death of a local aid worker in Darfur on Thursday is another reminder of how unsafe this Sudanese region continues to be for humanitarians.

A Sudanese staff member of an undisclosed international aid group perished after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the organization’s office in the town of Nyala. The incident occurred amid a shootout between paramilitary and government forces in the area, reportedly stemming from a carjacking incident the previous night.

Damian Rance, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum, told Devex the gunfight took place in an area where many international humanitarian organizations’ offices are located.

Rance said they are still trying to get further details on the incident, including reports of looting in at least one NGO office.

The incident happens amid increasing concerns on humanitarian operations in Sudan. Only 37 percent of the U.N.’s $984 million funding request for 2013 is funded in July. Many NGOs with camp management expertise have also fled the region, posing problems in addressing the needs of internally displaced persons in the camps, which have risen to 300,000 since the start of the year.

Heightened insecurity

A few days before Thursday’s incident, an armed group shot at a clearly marked ambulance belonging to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society during U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous’ visit to the region. And just a month ago, a Sudanese nurse also working for an iNGO was killed in Nertiti camp in central Darfur.

These incidents paint a picture of the dire security situation for humanitarians in the region.

“Security is a constant issue in Darfur, as it can prevent mobility and access … While some areas may improve, some areas may get worse and then improve again,” Rance said.

Humanitarian operations are currently suspended in Nyala and will resume once the security situation has stabilized. Rance said: “The safety of our staff is our primary concern at the moment.”

But he argued that only areas where there is active conflict  and the government cannot guarantee humanitarians’ safety  are off limits.

“For the most part we can access most areas in Darfur,” he said.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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