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UN: Increasing Insecurity Poses Dire Threat to Dafur Aid 

The United Nations has warned increasing insecurity in Sudan's western Darfur region is posing a dire threat to aid operations. Noel King reports for VOA from Khartoum the United Nations has urged all parties to the Darfur conflict to respect humanitarian law.

In a joint statement, U.N. agencies said that in December humanitarian access to civilians in Darfur reached an all-time low, since large-scale aid operations began in 2004.

The U.N. Children's Fund representative to Sudan, Ted Chaiban, told VOA the United Nations is particularly concerned about a growing trend of attacks on humanitarian workers.

"Attacks on humanitarians are on the increase," he said. "We have lost 12 colleagues in the past six months. Five other colleagues are kidnapped and still not returned. Unless that changes we will face increasing difficulties in reaching people and in making a difference in their lives."

In December, 430 humanitarian workers were evacuated from Darfur due to rising insecurity, the largest scale withdrawal of aid staff since operations in the region began. Aid agencies have struggled to keep their offices up and running with reduced staff.

Chaiban attributed much of the insecurity to splits within Darfur's armed rebel movements, which have resulted in violence. It is often unclear who is responsible for attacks on aid compounds.

Only one rebel faction of the Sudan Liberation Army signed on to the Darfur Peace Agreement in May. Other rebel groups said the accord did not meet their demands of wealth and power-sharing.

More than a quarter of a million people have been displaced since May and about four million people in Darfur and eastern Chad are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias in the region to crush a 2003 rebellion using a savage campaign of rape and murder, targeting civilians.

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died during the four-year conflict and more than 2.5 million have been displaced in Darfur and eastern Chad.