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12 March 2009

Given the history of the Sudanese government’s brutal treatment of the population of Darfur, some adverse reaction to last week’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) was expected—but nothing quite as bad as what happened. A dozen major international aid agencies and a couple of local ones were immediately expelled from Darfur, and many from the country altogether. [...] By some estimates, the NGOs that have been kicked out contributed 80% of the workers who distributed the World Food Programme’s aid in Darfur—the people, that is, who actually gave the food to the refugees in the camps.


12 March 2009

A week after Sudan kicked out 13 major foreign aid agencies, the world's biggest humanitarian relief effort has been plunged into chaos as organisations negotiate a nightmare of red tape and intimidation, aid workers say. The expelled agencies now have to find ways to reallocate tens of millions of dollars budgeted for projects they can no longer run, while those organisations allowed to remain in Sudan say they face a momentous struggle to fill the gaps. Aid workers say the Sudanese authorities have seized computers, vehicles, medical records and life-saving drugs, meaning they cannot hand them over to relief groups still on the ground. Some agencies say they have had funds frozen as well. [...] Relief groups fear the expulsions could create a new humanitarian disaster in Sudan. In Darfur alone some 4.7 million people rely on aid. The agencies' departure will leave 1.1 million people there without food, 1.5 million without medical care and more than 1 million without drinking water, the United Nations says. "The very life bridge to the people of Darfur is threatened now ... so this creates a new kind of hell for the people of Darfur," U.N. World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran told AlertNet.


11 March 2009

[...] In response to the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant which was issued against Bashir on Wednesday, the minister of foreign affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, reiterated the South African position: “We don’t condone impugnity but South Africa supported the decision of the African Union to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Al-Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance. [...] It follows that South Africa is unlikely to worry too much about the fact that in response to the arrest warrant Bashir promptly expelled aid groups on which more than one million refugees in Darfuri camps depend directly for their basic livelihood. The head of the UN World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, said: “This is a whole new kind of hell for the people of Darfur . With the loss of these NGOs, 1.1 million people will be without food aid, 1.1 million will be without healthcare, and over one million will be without potable water.” Bashir’s strategy seems obvious. If the humanitarian crisis escalates enough then the UN security council might force the year’s delay in court proceedings he and the African Union are gunning for.


11 March 2009

The United Nations relies so heavily on outside groups to deliver aid in Darfur that Sudan's expulsion of 16 non-governmental organisations has paralysed as much as half of its programmes, officials said on Tuesday. While the World Food Programme, World Health Organisation and UNICEF were not among those ordered out after a Hague court issued a war crimes warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the U.N. agencies lost a lot of manpower when their aid partners were shut down last week. [...] Four of the shuttered NGOs -- CARE International, Save the Children U.S., Action Contre La Faim and Solidarites -- had distributed a third of the World Food Programme's aid in Darfur, regularly reaching 1.1 million people in 130 locations. "The WFP and other humanitarian agencies do not have the capacity to fill such a large gap," spokeswoman Emilia Casella told reporters. "Unless NGOs can operate normally, people will go hungry, thirsty, and growing numbers of sick and malnourished will go untreated."


10 March 2009

China urged the United Nations on Tuesday to consult with the Sudanese government to stem a humanitarian crisis after the African nation expelled 13 aid groups that were helping millions in the conflict-wracked Darfur region. Sudan kicked out more than half of the aid workers in Darfur after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Khartoum accused the aid groups of cooperating with the Netherlands-based ICC. The World Food Program says some 1.1 million of the 2-3 million people it feeds in Sudan each month are dependent on deliveries from the groups that have been expelled


10 March 2009

U.N. agencies and other organizations allowed to remain in Darfur don't have the resources to fully replace the activities of 13 expelled aid groups who were helping millions in the conflict-wracked region, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief said. The United Nations will try to fill life-threatening gaps left by Sudan's expulsion of more than half the aid workers from Darfur, John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said Monday. [...] Assets of international NGOs have been confiscated including vehicles and computers, vital data for assistance to beneficiaries and food and non-food items, he said. There also have been cases of intimidation by some Sudanese officials toward NGO staff facing expulsion, he said. Holmes said one or two warehouses containing food from the U.N. World Food Program which was going to be distributed by NGOs were also quickly seized by local Sudanese authorities. "We have been assured that these assets will be returned to us quickly," he said.


10 March 2009

The United Nations is urging the government of Sudan to reverse its decision to expel 13 leading international aid organizations from Darfur and to terminate the work of three national agencies in that conflict-ridden province. U.N. agencies say the decision will have devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. [...] The World Food Program says four international NGOs distribute 35 percent of its food aid to more than one million people in Darfur. They also have been providing food to 5,500 malnourished children and mothers in need of supplementary and therapeutic feeding. WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella says these agencies have been distributing food in 130 locations in Darfur. She says the World Food Program is unable, by itself, to fill this huge gap. "So, unless NGOs can operate normally, people will go hungry, thirsty and growing numbers of sick and malnourished will go untreated," she said. "We are joining with our other sister agencies and partners urging the government of Sudan to rescind its decision in view of the potential grave impact on millions of vulnerable people in Darfur and elsewhere in northern Sudan."


10 March 2009

The U.N. and Sudan will send three joint missions to assess critical humanitarian needs after Khartoum expelled 13 non-governmental organizations, a U.N. official said Tuesday. "The United Nations and the Sudanese government agreed on 8 March that three joint U.N.-government teams composed of experts from both sides will visit Darfur to conduct an assessment of critical short-term needs," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. bureau for coordination of humanitarian affairs, or OCHA. She said the teams would look at four areas: food, nutrition, water and emergency shelter. [...] According to the World Food Program, four of its partner NGOs - Action Against Hunger, Save the Children USA, Solidarites and Care International which were expelled, took care of 35% of its food distribution in Darfur. "The WFP does not have the capacity to fill this gap," said Emilia Casella, the agency's spokeswoman. "Unless the NGOs are allowed to resume their activities, people are going to go hungry," said Casella.


9 March 2009

The first gauntlet thrown at President Obama didn’t come from Iran, Russia or China. Rather, it came from Sudan, in its decision to expel aid groups that are a lifeline keeping more than a million people alive in Darfur. [...] More than one million people depend directly on the expelled aid groups for health care, food and water. I’ve been in these camps, so let me offer an educated guess about what will unfold if this expulsion stands. The biggest immediate threat isn’t starvation, because that takes time. Rather, the first crises will be disease and water shortages, particularly in West Darfur. [...] “This is a whole new kind of hell for the people of Darfur,” Josette Sheeran, the head of the United Nations World Food Program, told me. “The life bridge for more than a million people has just been dismantled.


9 March 2009

The Sudanese government lacks sufficient capacity to do the work of the aid groups it has ordered out of the country's war-ravaged Darfur region, the top U.N. humanitarian affairs official said on Monday. [...] Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem on Friday told reporters that the Sudanese government would have no problem filling in any gaps in aid distribution created by the expulsion of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes told reporters on Monday that this was not the case. [...] Holmes added that U.N. and NGO staff have faced harassment at the hands of Sudanese security forces, including "intimidatory behavior." He added that U.N. officials had complained about this to the government. "Assets of international NGOs have been confiscated, including in some cases United Nations assets I have to say, things like vehicles and computers, vital data for assistance to beneficiaries, ... food and non-food items," he said. Holmes said there were one or two warehouses containing World Food Program food seized by local authorities, which he hoped would be returned.