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Eight aid worker killed in Darfur during July - UN

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Aug 7, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — A total of eight humanitarian workers died while on duty in July in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur, while the violence is also impacting on local populations, deepening the humanitarian crisis, the UN said Monday.

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An AU soldier stands in front of a SLA fighter during an AU patrol near the SLA controlled Fakyale village in central Darfur, of Al-Fasher, June 10, 2006.

Escalating violence in Darfur has killed more aid workers in the last two weeks than in the past two years and is now seriously jeopardizing the humanitarian mission in the area.

According to a press statement of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), humanitarian access is at its lowest level since the Darfur operation began and operational risks for aid workers are increasing by the day.

“The level of violence being faced by humanitarian workers in Darfur is unprecedented. Many of the attacks happened while workers were helping suffering populations.” said Manuel da Silva, Humanitarian Co-ordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan. “This is completely unacceptable. All sides must respect the neutrality of humanitarian workers. If this situation continues, we risk losing all that we have gained over the past year.”

In addition to the deaths, increases have also been recorded in hi-jackings of NGO vehicles, attacks on cars during which they were looted, and attempted ambushes. These attacks include vehicles stolen during food distributions, theft from NGO compounds and one attack on an ambulance.

As a result of these incidents, many INGO and UN national staff now fear for their safety if they enter camps and in some cases are reluctant to do so.

The Humanitarian Co-ordinator is also concerned at the impact the increased violence is having on local populations who have already suffered so much. “The situation is made even more serious by the fact that the need for humanitarian assistance is increasing while our ability to respond is being ever more restricted,” said Mr da Silva.

MSF decided last week to suspend its medical activities in Darfur due to the mounting insecurity in the region. MSF had been attacked in the past weeks in several locations in all regions of Darfur.

On 3 August, Oxfam announced the killing of one of its Sudanese staff members in West Darfur.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million forced to flee during the three-year conflict between Sudanese government forces, pro-government militias and rebels. There have been widespread charges of civilian massacre, rape and other atrocities.

(ST)

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