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ICRC Deplores Worsening Conditions in Darfur

  • Lisa Schlein

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says conditions are worsening for people in Sudan's province of Darfur, amid increasing violence and deteriorating security. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva, where the Red Cross leader briefed reporters on his visit to Darfur.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger says parts of Darfur are so dangerous that all humanitarian agencies have left. Only the Red Cross remains to minister to the needs of the people.

During his visit, the Red Cross president went to the cities of Nyala and al-Fashir and the town of Gereida in Darfur, all of which are close to the border with Chad. He says the deteriorating security situation is making access to people in need more and more difficult.

"What is increasing is the banditry and criminality, and that is mainly responsible for the deteriorating security situation… Unfortunately, it does not mean that there are no longer violations of international humanitarian law," he said.

Kellenberger says he told government officials and rebel groups that they must respect international humanitarian laws, and they must ensure law and order in the areas they control.

Many aid agencies are assisting internally displaced people in camps. Therefore, the Red Cross has mainly concentrated on helping people in inaccessible rural areas, where other agencies do not go. But Kellenberger says the Red Cross has been forced to depart from this strategy and assume responsibility for the Gereida camp.

He says aid workers who had been caring for people in the camp left after suffering a brutal attack in December. He says someone has to supply the 120,000 inhabitants in Gereida with food, water and health care.

"These people, they cannot go home because their villages are burnt and the security environment is so bad that in fact they have no alternative. And, so we had decided to take it over… It means that our exposure in Darfur will be even bigger, also in security terms, and it means also that our needs in terms of human and financial resources will increase," said Kellenberger.

The Red Cross says more and more people in Darfur are unable to tend to their fields or to their animals because of increasing violence and insecurity. As life becomes more difficult, the Red Cross says many of these people are leaving their homes and seeking refuge in camps for internally displaced people, which already are overflowing.

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