UN 1 million in Sudan Wont Get Food Aid From May
Associated Press
Tue Mar 24

UNITED NATIONS More than one million people in Darfur will not get their food rations starting in May if Sudan and the United Nations can't fill gaps left by the expulsion of more than a dozen foreign aid groups, a joint U.N.-Sudanese assessment team said Tuesday.

Even if other relief organizations in the region help, those are "Band-Aid solutions, not long-term solutions," John Holmes, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, said.

Sudan expelled 13 foreign aid organizations and closed three local ones this month after the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.

Sudan's government refuses to have any dealings with the court and has accused the aid groups of collaborating with its case. The groups deny it, and they warn of a humanitarian crisis in Darfur without their presence.

The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.

About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren't filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.

She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.

And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.

"The risks are high," Holmes told reporters Tuesday. "The key tests still lie ahead."

He described the summary of the assessment tour, which had to be signed by both the U.N. and Sudan, as a compromise document but he denied that the U.N. was downplaying the potential dangers to try to mollify al-Bashir.

Holmes said the aid gaps would not immediately lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, but said it is "something where the issues build up over time."

The summary, signed by Haq and the head of Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission, says the government and the U.N. will continue working together with existing aid organizations in Darfur to ensure "that civilians in need can continue to receive lifesaving food, health care, shelter, and water and sanitation."

Holmes also said security remains a top concern after a 39-year-old Sudanese relief worker was shot dead at his home in western Darfur on Monday by gunmen who came looking to steal satellite phones.

And less than two weeks ago, three foreign aid workers and one local colleague were kidnapped in Darfur by what one local governor called a group seeking to retaliate for the court's warrant for al-Bashir. The Doctors Without Borders workers were released three days later.