Home | News    Friday 6 February 2009

UN aid chief in Sudan says 30,000 fled recent South Darfur hostilities

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February 5, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Darfur said Thursday that at least 30,000 people have fled their homes recently in South Darfur while government forces attempted to re-take Muhageriya, a key town seized by rebels on January 15.

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Darfuri refugees camp out on the border, near Birak, a few kilometeres from the border with Sudan, March 6, 2008. (Reuters)

"NGOs and UN agencies are ready to deliver food, medicines, and blankets to people right now, and are trying to access the town of Muhageriya and villages between there and Shearia in order to do so," said acting Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer.

The 30,000 new displaced, who left their homes in Muhageriya and Shearia localities of South Darfur, will swell the ranks of the 3 million Darfurians already driven away either within Darfur or to refugee camps in Chad.

"As each day passes, people’s need for assistance increases and the humanitarian imperative to reach them becomes more pressing," added Lanzer.

The UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping operation (UNAMID), tasked with protecting civilians, reported Thursday from its base Muhageriya that there was gunfire and some aerial bombardments throughout the day as government forces were allegedly observed conducting patrols around the contested town approximately 500 meters from the UNAMID camp,

Recent fighting also occurred near the North Darfur capital, and an influx of new displaced persons, 90% women and children, has arrived in some of the largest North Darfur camps, according to humanitarian sources cited by UNAMID.

So far, the Al Salam refugee camp has received 520 new arrivals and the Zam Zam camp received 1,400 persons. UNAMID provided some tents to assist the humanitarian community in North Darfur, said a statement from the mission.

The fighting around Muhageriya began January 15 when rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement seized the town from a group allied to the government. Subsequent government air assaults and ground incursions probed the defenses before rebels announced they would withdraw outside the city in order to prevent harm to the civilian population.

The government rejected a rebel proposal to make the town a de-militarized zone patrolled by the UNAMID peacekeepers.

(ST)

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