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28 March 2008 - UNICEF relieved at release of State Water Corporation drivers in Darfur, but repeats call for end to attacks

UNICEF today expresses its relief at the release of four drivers from the State Water Corporation in North Darfur, who were abducted along with drilling equipment in Um Tajok more than a week ago. The drivers have now been safely reunited with their families, although the stolen equipment has not been recovered.

“I am delighted that our partners are safe and well, despite their terrible ordeal, and wish to thank all those who assisted in securing their freedom,” said UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban. “Their release has always been a priority for UNICEF, although we remain concerned at the loss of the valuable drilling equipment, which was intended to provide clean water for thousands of people in North Darfur.”

Chaiban also repeated calls for an end to attacks against those working on humanitarian projects.

“It is unacceptable that those who are devoting their lives to the wellbeing of the people of Darfur should be subject to such violence,” he said. “There is no justification for attacks on humanitarian personnel, equipment or other assets – this only harms ordinary men, women and children in Darfur.”

“I call today for all those with influence in Darfur to publicly disassociate themselves from these criminal attacks on the humanitarian community, and pledge themselves to ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers,” Chaiban added. “Those who are responsible for killing, assaulting, hijacking and abducting humanitarian personnel must also be held to account. We cannot allow this situation to continue.”

The stolen drilling rig was part of a project led by the State Water Corporation, with UNICEF support, to provide clean water to 180,000 people in North Darfur. UNICEF has warned that if staff from the State Water Corporation are now reluctant to continue operations after this recent attack, up to 400,000 people could ultimately be affected as water provision could be scaled back across the three Darfur states.

“In the last two years, access to clean water amongst conflict-affected populations in Darfur has increased from 63 per cent to 76 per cent, mainly thanks to the efforts of technical staff from the State Water Corporations, NGOs and other partners,” said Chaiban. “To lose such progress because of criminal acts would be a tragedy for the people of Darfur.”

 

 
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