While Sudanese officials and representatives for Darfur rebels meet in Chad, humanitarian conditions in Darfur are said to be growing worse. Violence and banditry are common and widespread, according to Adrian McIntyre, the spokesman for OXFAM in Sudan. From Khartoum, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about conditions in Darfur.
He says, “Well, the situation for people in Darfur remains very serious. The UN is now reporting that over two million people have been displaced from their homes by this conflict. One point eight million are here in Darfur and another 200,000 are across the border in Chad. There are serious shortages of food and water in many areas. Also there isn’t enough health care. And some of these basic services are still being provided by international aid agencies.”
However, there is another overriding concern. “A far bigger problem, however, is that the security situation has not improved. The violence is continuing everyday here in Darfur and there is fighting, looting, banditry, harassment of civilian populations by all parties to the conflict. The rebels are attacking villages. The government of Sudan is responding very heavy-handedly. This has resulted in fresh displacement of people in all three Darfur states. In fact, in the month of December, over 180,000 people were made homeless in just those four weeks alone.” Mr. McIntyre says the violence is “the number one barrier” to providing people with assistance.
The OXFAM spokesman has been in Darfur for the past eight months, saying, “There’s this quiet sense of desperation that pervades every aspect of life here in Darfur.”
The Africa Union has about 1400 troops in Darfur. Its efforts in the region are seen by many as a big test of the effectiveness of the AU, which replaced the OAU. Mr. McIntyre says, “Well, it is a big test. And of course it’s an enormous task. I mean the scale of this crisis, both in terms of the number of people affected and the area over which it’s covered, Darfur remember is the size of France, it’s bigger than Texas…and the African Union mission, small though it is, has a very important role to play in helping to end the violence against civilians here in Darfur. In places where they have established presence…we have seen some reduction in the level of violence that is being perpetrated against civilians.”