Sudan restrictions hamper aid work in Darfur

2012-05-23 07:50
Khartoum - Government restrictions on Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have forced the group to suspend key medical activities in part of Sudan's Darfur region, leaving tens of thousands of people without health care, the aid agency said on Tuesday.

The western Darfur area has been racked by violence since 2003, when rebels took up arms against a central government they accused of neglecting the remote region.

While fighting is down from its peak and the United Nations runs a large peacekeeping operation in Darfur, banditry and tribal fighting in addition to clashes between rebels and government forces have continued to plague the region.

MSF said hurdles to procedures like getting permits and shipping in medical supplies forced it to suspend most of its medical activities in the Jebel Si area, a conflict area in North Darfur state, where it is the only healthcare provider.

"With the reduction of our activities in Jebel Si, more than 100 000 people in the region are left entirely without healthcare," Alberto Cristina, MSF's operational manager for Sudan, said in the statement.

A government spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Critically ill patients had to be referred to the hospital in El Fasher, about eight hours away by car, MSF said.

The group has been working in the Jebel Si region since 2005, and its medical facilities were the only ones in the region, it said.

"The nearest Ministry of Health facilities are several hours' drive away, but insecurity in the area, as well as mountainous terrain and poor roads, makes access extremely difficult," it said.

The group said it would resume activities once restrictions were lifted and "medical supplies, logistical equipment and international staff are once again able to reach the region".

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