KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Worsening security in Sudan’s Darfur region is forcing aid agencies to cut or suspend some relief programmes, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The statement came two days after armed raiders abducted two German men working with humanitarian groups in the capital of South Darfur state, Nyala, and three days after attackers shot dead three Rwandan peacekeepers in the centre of the region.
In an unusually frank statement from inside Sudan, the U.N. mission called on Sudanese authorities to make a “concerted effort” to arrest and prosecute people who attack, abduct and rob humanitarian workers.
“The U.N. and humanitarian partners are very concerned at the increasingly insecure environment in Darfur ... particularly in the past two months,” said the unsigned statement.
“The reduction of access due to insecurity has already resulted in some cases of either a complete suspension or a serious reduction of activities and delivery of assistance by humanitarian agencies.”
The U.N.’s World Food Programme this month said more than 400,000 Darfuris might miss out on food aid in June because aid convoys were struggling to get to them.
Aid groups and peacekeepers have faced a surge in kidnappings — 17 foreigners have been abducted in Darfur since last year, with the two Germans and an American woman still in captivity.
A total of 27 members of Darfur’s joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force have died in ambushes and other attacks since the mission arrived at the beginning of 2008.
Increased fighting between government troops and rebels has also blocked key roads, grounded aid flights and stranded thousands of civilians in south and central Darfur.
Darfur’s most militarily powerful rebel force, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), suspended its participation in troubled peace talks at the beginning of May.
JEM and Sudan’s army have since reported a series of violent clashes, most recently on Monday and Tuesday around the settlement of Uzban in eastern Darfur.
Darfur’s humanitarian operation, which costs $1 billion a year, is the largest in the world with more than 4 million people, or two-thirds of the population, requiring aid.
Rebel groups who started a revolt against Sudan’s government in 2003 have splintered into rival factions and there has been a surge in bandit attacks against a background of long-running tribal clashes.
UNAMID on Thursday said it had unconfirmed reports renewed clashes between rival Arab Misseriya and Rizeigat tribes killed 20 people near the West Darfur town of Zalingei on Tuesday.