Aid Agencies: The EU must act now on Darfur as new violence cuts off thousands of civilians

The European Union must immediately increase pressure on all sides to fully adhere to a ceasefire in response to the escalating crisis in Darfur, said a coalition of aid agencies today.

As EU heads of state meet in Finland today the six agencies – CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee and Tearfund -warned that suffering will continue to increase unless international bodies such as the EU take on a greater leadership role.

The agencies warn that renewed violence in North Darfur has driven thousands of civilians deep into the mountains where they are cut off from aid. September has seen major new outbreaks of violence in North Darfur and the central Jebel Marra region, and a new rise in militia attacks destroying dozens of villages in South Darfur.

In West Darfur and Eastern Chad, militias and rebel groups continue to devastate the area. Tens of thousands more civilians have been displaced throughout September. It is thought that many of them are unable to reach existing camps to receive assistance. In some areas villagers trapped by the ongoing military activity have climbed higher into the mountains to escape the violence.

“Politicians cannot continue to ignore the suffering of the people of Darfur. If greater effort is not made to bring about a sustainable ceasefire to halt the violence and improve conditions on the ground, then the crisis in Darfur is going to become even worse than it already is. The EU has offered generous funding but has done too little to provide political leadership for a concerted and coordinated effort to bring this crisis to an end,” said a spokesperson for the group.

According to the UN, recent months have seen a sharp rise in violence against both civilians and aid workers, jeopardising the humanitarian response to the crisis. At least eleven aid workers have been killed in Darfur in the last three months – more than in the rest of the three-year conflict combined. Continued military activity means access to most areas is severely limited and an estimated 40% of people in need of humanitarian assistance are not being reached.

Fighting around Gereida in South Darfur in early October forced the temporary evacuation of aid agency staff operating in the area. With over130,000 people – many of them recent arrivals – Gereida is now Darfur’s biggest camp.

“The conditions in the camps had improved significantly but the increased violence means we are now seeing a worrying decline. Unless the international community increases efforts to promote dialogue and a ceasefire, and supports a strengthened AMIS capacity immediately – the camps could once again become rife with disease and plagued with high mortality rates from malnutrition, cholera and malaria.” said a spokesperson for the group.

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Name: Ian Bray