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Hijackings, Robberies, Beatings Disrupt Aid Operations in Darfur

Humanitarian agencies say insecurity in Darfur, such as truck hijackings and robberies, continues to hinder their operations and puts their staffs at risk.

Oxfam is one of the agencies working in Darfur. Spokesman Alun McDonald spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about conditions there.

“The biggest security concerns at the moment are just attacks on our staff and our vehicles. We rely nearly totally on helicopters and air travel to get to places. We very rarely use the roads because our vehicles get hijacked and our staff get robbed. These hijackings are becoming increasingly violent. I mean they have been shot, attacked or beaten up in these incidents. It’s really limiting in terms of the number of people that we can reach (and) the areas that we can access. Particularly in rural Darfur, large parts of the region are almost out of bounds for aid agencies now,” he says.

The recent attack on an AU base in Darfur that left at least 10 peacekeepers dead has had a demoralizing effect. McDonald says that “the general violence in Darfur and attacks on aid workers, attacks on civilians, attacks on AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan), the fighting between the factions” are having an negative effect on aid workers’ morale and confidence…staffs are very frustrated. They are very demoralized. They came to work in areas where four million people are dependent on aid agencies for assistance. And yet they’re not being able to do the work they came to do because of security problems.”

OXFAM helps about 400,000 people in Darfur, but with insecurity access is described as “irregular.” Efforts to distribute mosquito nets and help with malaria prevention are on hold in some places.

McDonald says the only way to improve aid operations is for all sides in the Darfur conflict to just stop fighting.