Darfur is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The total number of displaced now stands at two million people with an additional two million people dependent on international aid for food and basic needs.
Although nutrition and health indicators remain relatively stable, there has been a serious deterioration in the ability of humanitarian agencies to reach those in need. The UN’s ability to access populations in need in Darfur is at its lowest level since April 2004. With attacks on aid workers, banditry, upsurges in fighting and increasing numbers of new displacements, the situation has become extremely precarious and humanitarian conditions could rapidly deteriorate in the face of large-scale displacement, disease outbreaks, or withdrawal of NGOs due to insecurity.
The UK is the second biggest bilateral humanitarian donor to the Darfur crisis. Since April 2004 we have contributed over £190 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan.
In 2006 DFID has spent approximately £34 million on humanitarian assistance in Darfur and a further £4 million on those displaced and affectedby conflict in neighbouring Chad. Most of DFID’s Darfur assistance goes towards protecting the nearly two million displaced, and ensuring they have adequate access to healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and food. This aid is channelled through the UN, non-governmental organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The UK is also active in urging full and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies to all those in need in Darfur. Given administrative obstructions and the rising levels of insecurity, this is a major challenge in providing assistance to the displaced and conflict affected in Darfur.
The UN has reported that 13,686 Sudanese from the Darfur region fled to Chad between January and November 2006. These consisted of 1,660 new arrivals in January, 5,005 in February, 2,310 in March, 540 in April, 523 in May, 738 in June, 115 in July, 1,508 in August, 355 in September, 705 in October and 229 in November.
We are very concerned about the current situation in Chad. We assess it is fuelled partly by cross-border interference from Sudan. We continue to call on both the Government of Sudan and the Government of Chad to stop supporting each others’ rebels and to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement.A UN assessment mission travelled to Chad from28 November to 3 December to look at what UN could do to improve security in refugee camps and border areas. We are pressing the UN Secretary-General to report back quickly with options for an international presence in the Chad/Darfur border region.
We have not been keeping data on the number of aid agencies ceasing operations in Darfur. We are aware of only two cases. Save the Children (UK) ended its operations in Darfur at the end of 2004, though it continued with its work elsewhere in Sudan. Last month Norwegian Refugee Council ended its operations in South Darfur.