SUDAN: No access after Darfur clashes
KHARTOUM, 3 March 2010 (IRIN) - Weeks of fighting in parts of Darfur have raised concern over the plight of civilians, as insecurity has prompted humanitarian agencies to suspend activities in some areas.
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The clashes have led to displacements in eastern Jebel Marra in South Darfur and North Darfur states, and in western Jebel Marra and the Jebel Moon region in West Darfur state, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on 2 March, stressing that accurate information from the ground was very scarce because of lack of access.
The rebel Sudan Liberation Army, Abdel Wahid Nour faction (SLA-Nour), which refuses to join peace talks with the Sudanese government until a full cessation of hostilities is implemented, has accused government forces of attacking its positions east of Jebel Marra.
"There were random air attacks on villages," Al-Sadeq Al-Zein Rokero, an official with SLM-Nour faction, said. "The situation is very tragic. This may be the most violent attack by the Sudanese armed forces."
However, Sudan's army spokesman, Al Sawarmi Khaled, denied there had been any government military action. "The armed forces are present in the area to preserve order. They did not clash with Abdel Wahid's forces."
The US State Department cast doubt on this denial in a statement expressing extreme concern “about reports that Government of Sudan forces are conducting offensive operations against ... [SLA-Nour] positions in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur that have reportedly caused significant civilian casualties, displacement, and the evacuation of humanitarian organizations".
The statement called on both parties “to refrain from further violence and to allow the Joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur access to Jebel Marra to assess the humanitarian situation and restore stability".
OCHA spokesman Sam Hendricks said media reports about the number of casualties in the recent fighting were unreliable.
“There is no way to find about casualties. There is no access to areas affected by the fighting," he said.
French aid group, Médecins du Monde (MdM), the only medical NGO in the Deribat area in eastern Jebel Marra, suspended operations after attacks last week, which resulted in the displacement of more than 100,000 people, the group stated on its website.
In the towns affected by the fighting - Marra, Kidingeer, Leiba and Fugoli, Feina and Deribat - three other NGOs suspended operations because of insecurity and fighting, Hendricks said. The NGOs dealt with water and sanitation.
|Airdropping food aid in Darfur (file photo)
"The situation is very bad. We are really concerned," said Jerome Larche, head of MdM's Sudan programme. The population no longer had access to any medical facility, Larche said.
Malnutrition, which the French aid group was addressing, and access to clean water, were among the main problems for the population in the area, Larche said.
"After the fighting started, we had reports that six children died from malnutrition complications. The rate of acute malnutrition is going to increase if we cannot go back to the area soon," Larche said.
The NGOs, whose offices were looted during the fighting, are preparing emergency intervention to return to Deribat as soon as the fighting stops.
In western Jebel Marra, fighting since January between SLA-Nour factions, and between Sudan's government forces and SLA-Nour, displaced several villages, including Nertiti, Guldo and Thur, which are now reportedly calm, OCHA said in its update.
In Nertiti, a joint UN and NGO assessment estimates about 2,000 households recently arrived in the area.
In Guldo, leaders of the community, which is hosting the newly displaced, estimated about 3,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were staying in the village. "Food shortages are of concern in the area due to the combination of poor harvest and lack of access to markets," the OCHA update stated.
In Thur, the Government Humanitarian Aid Commission, HAC, estimates around 1,760 IDP households are newly arrived.
In North Darfur state, Aradeep, Katur, Fanga and Gosdor are among the areas affected by the fighting.
Local sources have said it is likely most of Gosdor's 12,000 people have moved to the hills, where food needs are a major concern, due to a recent poor harvest.
In West Darfur, clashes in January and early February between the Sudanese armed forces and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, before the two parties signed a ceasefire agreement on 23 February, have led to unconfirmed reports of the displacement of around 4,000 people in Selea.
"Confirmation of overall affected population remains impossible until assessments can be conducted," the OCHA report said.
In anticipation of urgent needs, the World Health Organization and NGO partners have pre-positioned emergency health supplies for transfer to Kulbus hospital.