Unamid: More than 20,000 from Jebel Marra shelter at base

The number of civilians seeking refuge from the ongoing fighting in Jebel Marra at the Sortony team site in North Darfur has more than doubled during the past two weeks. The total number of displaced people, 45,000, currently exceeds the number of the military offensive last year.

The number of people seeking refuge from the ongoing fighting in Jebel Marra at the team site of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid) in Sortony, North Darfur, has more than doubled during the past two weeks, the peacekeeping mission in Darfur reported on Monday. The total number of displaced people currently exceeds the number of the military offensive last year.

As of Saturday, 23,219 displaced people sought refuge from the air raids and attacks in the vicinity of Sortony in Kabkabiya locality, on the outskirts of the Jebel Marra massif. According to Unamid they include 2,325 men, 6,391 women and 14,403 children. 

A humanitarian convoy, escorted by peacekeepers, departed from El Fasher to Sortony on Saturday to deliver food and non-food items, and emergency shelters. The mission expected the convoy to reach Sortoni soon.

It also carries 268 metric tons of cereals and pulses as a two-month ration for 16,000 people, and up to 10.5 metric tons of ready-to-use supplementary food (Plumpy'Sup) for 3,800 children under 5 years old, provided by the World Food Program. 

Besides the Sortony team site, the mission holds a base in Tawila. As of last weekend, 14,034 displaced people take shelter there after fleeing the insecurity in Jebel Marra. The team site supplies 16,500 litres of water to the people each day, and the WFP started distributing food among them. There are currently 180 metric tons of general food available for about 10,000 people.

The Unamid Deputy-Joint Special Representative, Bintou Keita, visited Sortony on Sunday to assess the situation of the displaced population that camps near the team site. A International Organization of Migration (IOM) tracking unit team has started verification of the newly displaced people.

Military offensive

Almost 45,000 people have been displaced since mid-January, the UN's humanitarian office (OCHA) reported. Last year's heavy 'dry season offensive' in Jebel Marra displaced approximately 41,000 in more than one month.

The government's large-scale offensive against the armed rebels of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) started on 15 January. Ongoing air raids with barrel bombs (barrels filled with explosives and shrapnel, highly inaccurate) and ground attacks killed and wounded an unknown number of civilians. Paramilitary troops, backed by local gunmen, assaulted villagers, raped women, and plundered and torched villages in their retreat from the battle zone.

Thousands of civilians sought refuge higher in the mountains. The cold and lack of food and water there reportedly caused the deaths of a number of children.

The Sudanese army announced to have regained control of Jebel Marra yesterday. Unamid is unable to intervene or assist civilians locally, for the same reason that aid organisations have had no access to the Jebel Marra for years: extreme insecurity and access restraints by the government.