It’s been almost three weeks since the peace agreement for Sudan was signed in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Today in our series on Darfur, we take a look at the work of humanitarian agencies there – and whether the agreement has made a difference.
Alun McDonald works for Oxfam in Sudan. (OXFAM is a development, relief, and campaigning organisation that works to find lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world.) English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked McDonald for an on-the-ground impact assessment. “At the moment…tens of thousands are being forced into the camps where one out of every three are living. Three and a half million are dependent on humanitarian aid because the conflict has taken away their traditional means of livelihood and because of military clashes, banditry, looting on the roads, we can’t get to people in need…. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to do humanitarian work in Dafur.”
McDonald says because the problems in Dafur are only going to be resolved by a political process, the peace agreement is a very positive move. “It’s definitely a move in the right direction, but the history of agreements on Dafur means that we have to be cautious…take steps to ensure that what is agreed is actually implemented and there is an improvement on the ground, for example strengthening the AU force that is in Dafur at the moment...just seven thousand troops to secure this whole area, they have hardly any funding…a mandate that doesn’t allow them to protect civilians, so we need more troops, more funding and a stronger mandate.”
As some speculate that the displaced may go home by the rainy season, McDonald says, “We are not at the stage when we can start talking about return…. People going short distances to the market, collect firewood…short distances outside the camps, are still risking their lives, so they are certainly not ready to travel dozens of miles. What needs to be done is strengthening the AU force so that patrols are carried out in rural areas.”
McDonald says the threat of attacks by Al Quaeda is serious, but, “We are not letting it affect our work. There are more than three million people who need humanitarian assistance, so organizations generally are committed to providing that.”
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