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released March 24 found gaps in food aid, health and nutrition, shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene for nearly 5 million Darfuris as a result of President Omar al-Bashir's recent expulsion of 13 foreign aid groups. The survey was completed with the cooperation of the Sudanese government, according to the U.N., which thanked Khartoum.

The crisis will not occur immediately, but after supplies ran out in about a month, according to U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Ameerah Haq. By the end of April, she estimated that food, water, shelter and other supplies will run dangerously low for millions of displaced people.

An additional concern, according to Haq, is that expertise in planning, program design, implementation and evaluation has been lost across the board, and the quality of relief is likely to suffer.

In some of the Darfur camps, residents are protesting the expulsion of foreign aid groups by

from national or government-backed replacement agencies, according to The New York Times. In Kalma, home to about 90,000 people, a tense standoff is brewing as residents have refused a delivery of fuel for their water pumps, and meningitis has broken out in the camp.

U.S. diplomat Alberto Fernandes, meawhile, visited Zam Zam camp in North Darfur, where he found a

that endangered hundreds of thousands. Oxfam too reported that at several camps from which it pulled workers, refugees already faced severe water shortages.

"While the United Nations and remaining NGOs are exploring ways to provide certain life-saving assistance," said a State Department statement about Fernandes' trip, "they would be unable to fill the gap created by this emergency."

Khartoum reiterated yesterday its refusal to reverse the decision to expel the aid groups, which a spokesman said is permanent. Meanwhile, al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahari, urged Sudanese to prepare for

against the West, gunmen

another aid worker, and rebels set fire to a refugee camp, killing at least two.

Considering that many forms of aid from international players such as the U.N. take weeks – if not months – to arrive on the ground, the international community needs to act quickly to avoid another humanitarian catastrophe.

About the author

  • David Lepeska

    David has served as U.N. correspondent for the newswire UPI and reported for several major newspapers, including the New York Daily News and Newsday. He was chief correspondent for the Kashmir Observer in Srinagar, India, and regularly contributes to the Economist, among other publications. Since 2007, David has reported for Devex News from Washington, New York, as well as South Asia.