|A boy washes his hands at Al-Riyad Camp for displaced people in West Darfur in 2006. The suspension of 16 aid NGOs now poses new humanitarian challenges in Sudan.|
NEW YORK, USA, 9 March 2009 – UNICEF and several other UN agencies have expressed deep concern about the Sudanese Government’s recent suspension of the activities of 16 non-governmental aid organizations.
The suspensions are slowing down and in some cases halting vital humanitarian operations in Darfur and elsewhere in the country.
“If the life-saving assistance these agencies were providing is not restored shortly, it will have immediate, lasting and profound impacts on the well-being of millions of Sudanese citizens. It is not possible, in any reasonable time frame, to replace the capacity and expertise these agencies have provided over an extended period of time,” the UN agencies said in a joint statement.
These programmes “cannot stop,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault. “It’s a humanitarian crisis which will expand by leading to certain death for children and women if we are not able to sustain these operations.”
Impact on women and children
The suspensions will have a serious impact on UNICEF’s ability to assist women and children affected by ongoing violence and drought. Much of the agency’s work in Sudan is done in partnership with NGOs that have had their licenses revoked and are currently unable to operate.
UNICEF fears that the move will seriously disrupt operations delivering water, sanitation, health care, nutrition, education and protection to vulnerable populations. An estimated 1.16 million people, mostly in Darfur, could lose access to water and sanitation supplies in the coming weeks, for example. Some 1.5 million could lose access to basic health care, including reproductive health services.
|A child walks past a UN helicopter delivering school supplies to South Darfur, Sudan, in 2005.|
According to the joint statement – which was issued by UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Joint Logistics Centre, World Food Programme, World Health Organization and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – the suspended organizations comprise more than half of the capacity for aid operations in Darfur.
A matter of urgency
While UNICEF is looking for alternative ways to maintain its programmes for children and women in Darfur and other areas of Northern Sudan, it has echoed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for restoring the NGOs to their full operational status as a matter of urgency.
Darfur represents one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises. Women and children bear the brunt of displacement and violence in this long-running conflict.
The suspended aid groups provide a lifeline to 4.7 million people in Darfur alone, according to the UN joint statement.