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WFP: Humanitarian Aid Getting to Darfur Despite Insecurity


The World Food Program (WFP) says it has been able to successfully feed up to three million internally displaced people in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur. The organization says it has been able to do this even though problems of security remain and it still has no access to certain areas. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva, where she interviewed a WFP Official who recently returned from Darfur.

The war in Darfur between Sudanese-backed Arab Janjaweed militia and rebel African groups has been going on for four years. Many of the 2.5 million people who were forced to flee their homes have been living in camps managed by the United Nations.

WFP Public Information Officer Louis Vigneault says life in the camps has become, what he calls, sort of normal for these people, but he tells VOA that nothing in Darfur is really normal.

He says it is difficult to travel safely from one place to another. And the situation has become more complicated because the rebel and pro-government groups have splintered into rival sub-groups. He says this causes problems for humanitarian agencies which are no longer sure who is in charge.

"So, one day you send a security assessment mission and they go and they talk to the military leaders on their way to their destination and it is fine and nobody has any objection for the humanitarian convoy to pass by the next day," he noted. "And, the first thing you realize the next day is that someone else, a lieutenant or another general, has taken over and he does not want to follow the orders of the other one that you have met the day before. So, you face now a roadblock. So, you do not have any safe route."

Vigneault spent three days visiting camps for internally displaced people in El Fascher and Kutum in northern Darfur. He says people in the camps say they would like to return home. For now, they prefer to remain in the camps where life is more secure and where they have access to food, water, health care, education and other basic needs.

He cautions people against thinking the situation in Darfur is acceptable just because the humanitarian operation is running well.

"We really need to work out a political resolution of that conflict to find a solution to it and not having the conflict just go on and on for years and years and years having in mind that it does not really matter because the vulnerable population has access to any kind of humanitarian relief so it is really not a problem for them," he added. "And, that is really the danger that we are getting into now."

Vigneault says aid agencies are afraid the international community, believing the situation in Darfur has reached tolerable levels, might not exert the effort needed to bring the conflict to an end.

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