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UN Says Expulsion of Aid Agencies From Darfur Causing Conditions to Worsen

UN aid agencies said the humanitarian situation in Sudan's conflict ridden province of Darfur is very bad and getting worse. They said the expulsion of the 13 aid agencies is a severe blow to their humanitarian operations in Darfur. And they added that the decision by MSF-Belgium or Doctors Without Borders to leave Darfur after three of its workers were kidnapped is already having a serious impact on medical services.

The World Health Organization said it counts on the non-governmental organizations to monitor the presence and emergence of diseases in the region. It said they provide key information on the status of water and diseases, on malnutrition and reproductive health.

WHO Spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib, said it is difficult to know what diseases are circulating or emerging in the region, now that the agencies no longer are operating.

She said WHO is very concerned about an outbreak of meningitis in Kalma camp in southern Darfur. She said 54 cases, including four deaths, have been reported in this camp, which houses 90,000 people.

"Before the expulsion of these NGOs, MSF, for example, was planning with WHO and other NGOs and other UN organizations to start an immunization campaign targeting some 80,000 people in Nyala. And, as you know, meningitis is a very dangerous disease, especially in crowded areas. So, if we are not immunizing people quite rapidly, more cases may be detected in this IDP camp," she said.

The six-year old conflict in Darfur has taken a heavy toll. The United Nations reports 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been displaced since clashes broke out between the Sudanese-backed Janjaweed Arab militia and ethnic African rebels.

Aid agencies said their assistance has succeeded in improving the nutritional and health status of the millions of people living in UN-managed camps. But, they fear this progress now will be lost because of the forced withdrawal of the 13 private aid agencies.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir expelled the agencies after the International Criminal Court indicted him for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

World Food Program spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, said children will be among the primary victims of President Al-Bashir's actions.

"Previously, a number of children receiving supplementary feeding who had been affected by the NGOs that left, which was 5,500. In addition, MSF Belgium has been providing take home rations to the families of children receiving therapeutic feeding in Camp Kabila, which is in north Darfur. So, the pullout of MSF Belgium in this case will affect a further 5,000 families who were receiving food assistance through that program," she said.

Casella said less than a two-week supply of food from past distributions remains in Darfur. She said the NGO's are essential in the distribution of food. Now that they're gone, she said WFP, in the coming days, plans to go ahead with a one-off distribution of two months of rations for more than one million people.