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Insecurity cuts off aid for Darfur’s Jebel Marra towns

April 19 - 2010 KHARTOUM

Fighting in an historically contested area of the eastern part of the mountain range in central Darfur has left several towns abandoned and limited humanitarian access. Facing ‘continued instability’, aid agencies are unable to access certain areas of Jebel Marra where they had provided aid including food, water, and medicines during the past five years, according to the Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan.

Four international non-governmental agencies (NGOs) suspended all operations by the end of January, affecting work in three or four towns. Since then only a few humanitarian missions have been able to get into eastern Jebel Marra. Recent assessments have found that some towns were abandoned. The inhabitants have not yet been located. “Based on historical trends they typically go to the highlands”, UN Public Information Officer Samuel Hendricks told Radio Dabanga on Monday.

“Our operations have been on hold for some weeks while we have been trying to reach civilians in the highlands to assess the humanitarian situation and provide any relief that might be necessary”, said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier. He added that as the driest part of the dry season now approaches, it becomes more urgent to gain access to civilians living in difficult circumstances. The NGOs and UN agencies are “working closely” with Sudanese authorities throughout Darfur supporting the needs of the population, said a statement from OCHA on Sunday.

Jebel Marra is the stronghold of the Sudan Liberation Movement, including the faction led by founder Abdel Wahid Al Nur. Earlier this year the government conducted offensive operations in the region against Abdel Wahid’s positions. Abdel Wahid refuses to negotiate with the government at the peace talks held in Doha, Qatar.

SLM told Radio Dabanga that it repelled an attack by the government on Saturday. The SLM Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs claimed that government used aircraft to bomb three villages, leading to the displacement of citizens in that area. He said that the government offensive, now in its second month, led to the death of woman and a baby. The attack also injured seven citizens, three of whom are women. Radio Dabanga was unable to reach the army to comment on the news.

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