MSF team blocked in Darfur

2014-07-03 22:09
A displaced woman cooks at a temporary shelter in El Sireaf, in the state of North Darfur. (AFP)

A displaced woman cooks at a temporary shelter in El Sireaf, in the state of North Darfur. (AFP)

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Khartoum - Sudanese authorities have blocked a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) emergency team from travelling to Darfur to help thousands of recently-displaced people who are barely surviving, said a statement obtained Thursday.

This is the latest obstacle cited by foreign aid workers in the war-torn and impoverished nation where millions need humanitarian assistance.

MSF's complaint of access problems in Darfur comes after the aid group admitted last month that it is working in Sudan's South Kordofan in spite of Khartoum's denial of access to parts of that battle-scarred state.

MSF, whose French name is Medecins Sans Frontieres, said it planned to send three experienced staff to "launch initial life-saving emergency activities" for people in "particularly terrible conditions" at El Sereif camp near the South Darfur state capital Nyala.

"We do not understand why, when this team arrived in Khartoum, they were not granted permission to travel to the camp," Cyril Bertrand, MSF operations co-ordinator, said in the statement.

"Despite meetings at the highest levels of relevant government ministries, their travel permits continue to be blocked."

Sudanese aid officials familiar with the situation could not be immediately reached for comment.

MSF said its three-person team would reinforce staff who have been working at El Sereif camp for displaced people since last August.

Fighting and "the total destruction of their villages" forced 4 500 more people to flee to the camp in March and April.

These people are "sheltering on a patch of desert with almost none of the basic essentials to sustain life," MSF said.

Hepatitis

They have scarcely enough drinking water to stay alive, and infectious diseases such as Hepatitis E are spreading, it added.

In the face of these "alarming" living conditions, Bertrand said the denial of permits to MSF's team is inexplicable.

"We call on the authorities to facilitate a fast-track access to avoid lives being needlessly lost," he said.

In South Kordofan, Sudan tightly restricted the movement of aid agencies after fighting with rebels erupted there three years ago.

Humanitarian groups have had no access into South Kordofan's rebel areas from within Sudan since 2011, although some foreign aid groups operate in government-held zones of the state.

But in June, MSF said it had started a "cross-border" operation to South Kordofan in 2012 "as the government in Khartoum denied access to international NGOs despite the medical needs of the civilians".

This was the first confirmation that a foreign aid group has been able to enter and operate in areas of South Kordofan disputed between rebel and government forces, an extremely sensitive issue for Khartoum.

The confirmation came after Sudanese air force bombs hit MSF's hospital in the village of Farandalla, South Kordofan, on 16 June.

Several other international NGOs are known to have also mounted cross-border operations into South Kordofan from neighbouring South Sudan.

Read more on:    msf  |  sudan  |  east africa
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