Saturday, April 04, 2009

US Sudan envoy: Slim chance expelled NGOs will return

US Sudan envoy Gration will travel to Qatar at the end of April to meet the U.N. and African Union's Darfur mediator, Djibril Bassole.

April 04, 2009 Associated Press report (Khartoum) - excerpts:
US Sudan envoy: Slim chance aid groups will return
Chances are slim that all the aid groups expelled by the Sudanese government will return, and alternative ways must immediately be found to help the millions of people in Darfur, President Barack Obama's new envoy to Sudan said Saturday. [...]

Gration, a retired Air Force general, said the basic needs of the more than 70,000 refugees in the Zamzam camp are barely being met largely because of Sudan's expulsion of the aid groups. He warned that water could run out in the northern Darfur camp in about two months and there could be an outbreak of preventable diseases if immediate solutions are not found.

"I have come away with a renewed sense of urgency. ... (I) believe we are on the brink of a deepening crisis in Darfur," Gration told reporters in a telephone interview after touring Zamzam.

"I don't think that the prospects for returning the 13 NGOs — as a group of 13 — is very strong or very high," he said. "That is why we need to come up with creative ways immediately, and when I say immediately I mean in the next weeks, to be able to compensate by bringing in other capabilities or taking steps to expand the capabilities of existing NGOs." [...]

Gration did not directly blame the Sudanese government for the crisis — a marked departure from his predecessor's sharp tone with Sudanese officials. He said he was confident the Sudanese government "will understand the seriousness of this situation and work with the international community to resolve this issue."

The U.S. envoy also stressed that he hoped "to create an environment where these decisions can be made. [...]
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April 04, 2009 Reuters report by Andrew Heavens (Khartoum) - excerpts:
U.S. envoy says Darfur on brink of deeper crisis
Darfur is on the brink of a deeper humanitarian crisis following Khartoum's expulsion of aid groups and needs a new relief push within weeks, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan said on Saturday.

Envoy Scott Gration spoke as he traveled through north Darfur a month after Sudan expelled 13 foreign aid groups and closed three local organizations it accused of helping build a war crimes case against the country's president.

He told reporters by phone he had just visited Zamzam refugee camp, where buildings run by the ousted aid groups remain closed, health services were hit and water reserves were close to running dry.

"I was very concerned with what I saw. We are on the brink of a deeper crisis in Darfur," Gration said.

"We have to increase the capacity and number of aid agencies that are able to move aid assistance from the warehouses to the distribution points and then to the hands and mouths of the people in these camps."

It was his first visit since U.S. President Barack Obama named the retired Air Force general last month as special envoy to war-ravaged Sudan. [...]

Gration said Sudan needed to fill the gap left by the expelled groups by bringing in new organizations from Arab countries and the west and by building up local groups. He called on Khartoum to return about 400 vehicles and other seized assets and to speed up visa applications for new aid workers.

"I don't think that the prospects for returning the 13 NGOs ...are very strong or very high," he said.

Gration will travel to Qatar at the end of April to meet the U.N. and African Union's Darfur mediator, Djibril Bassole.

Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement last month suspended its participation in tentative talks with Sudan's government in Doha, protesting against the aid expulsions.

Sudan says it plans to replace the expelled organizations with other international groups and Sudanese humanitarian operations. Bashir has also said he wants Sudanese groups to handle all the delivery of aid.

The expulsions hit aid programs across North Sudan, and the United Nations has said that, beyond Darfur, there are also particular worries on the impact on Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile -- three oil-rich regions along Sudan's contested north-south border.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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