A recent spate of violence in Sudan’s western region of Darfur has left tens of thousands displaced; humanitarian agencies say they are struggling to access populations in need of support.
An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict.
A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur – have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region. In early April, fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) in East Darfur State displaced several thousand people; SLA-MM managed to capture took two towns – Muhajiriya and Labado – for ten days, but the SAF has since retaken them.
On 19 April, a peacekeeper was shot dead and two others were injured when unknown assailants attacked an African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base in Muhajiriya.
Inter-tribal violence has also broken out, with clashes between the Misseriya and Salamat communities in early April causing displacement; some fled across the border to Chad and the Central African Republic. Land disputes between the same two communities in South Darfur have caused tension and displacement.
In January, tens of thousands were displaced by fighting between the Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur State.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.
“The ongoing war in Darfur continues to claim lives, and the longer it goes on, the more civilians die, the more people are forced out of their homes and the more people have their lives torn apart,” Mark Cutts, country head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN.
“Regarding the recent displacements, we are largely working without accurate numbers, which makes it very difficult for us to plan for the newly displaced populations… It’s difficult to estimate the numbers and the exact needs as long as we are unable to get people on the ground to assess the situation,” he said.
“After the government retook the towns of Muhajiriya and Labado a couple of days ago, UNAMID was able to send a convoy into the area. We requested permission from the government to send a humanitarian convoy with food and medical supplies along with them, but the government rejected this request,” Cutts added. “We were told this was for security reasons. We are hoping to have access to the displaced populations soon.”
UNAMID has also called for better humanitarian access, specifically to Muhajiriya and Labado. Ruari McDermott, country director for Mercy Corps and head of the international NGO forum’s steering committee, told IRIN that a number of NGOs had a presence in the field and were able to report on the situation in some areas, but faced difficulty getting an overview of the overall numbers and needs of the displaced.
“We have stocks to cope with the immediate needs and have access to emergency response funds at the global and national level, but this violence and displacement puts pressure on an already woefully underfunded effort to care for 4.4 million people in Sudan,” Cutts said. A donor conference in Doha, Qatar, recently raised US$3.6 billion for development projects in Darfur. Cutts welcomed the injection of new money into the region.
“Often, humanitarian agencies in emergencies take over the provision of services such as water and medical care, which would ordinarily be handled by the government… With more money coming into the region, the government can rebuild these services and humanitarian partners can focus on the most urgent needs of the crisis,” he said.
For additional reading on this topic please see:
Traditional Authorities’ Peacemaking Role in Darfur
Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players
Unter Feinden: intrakommunale Gewalt in Darfur