August 14, 2010 / 8:08 AM / 10 years ago

UN pleads for humanitarian access to Darfur camp

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. humanitarian chief on Friday urged Sudanese authorities to allow humanitarian aid workers into a Darfur refugee camp that they have been prevented from entering for nearly two weeks.

A displaced Sudanese girl who just arrived from Muhajirya stands next to her family's belongings in Otash IDP'S camp in Nyala southern Darfur March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Aid agencies have been barred from the Kalma Camp for internally displace persons (IDPs) in Sudan’s conflict-torn western Darfur region since August 2 due to a stand-off between international peacekeepers and Khartoum.

“I am extremely concerned about the welfare of the IDPs at Kalma camp, to whom we have not been able to deliver relief for 13 days,” U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said in a statement.

“Deliveries of food and fuel for water pumps have for example not been possible,” he said. “Sanitation is also a major concern as it is the middle of the rainy season. Many thousands of IDPs from Kalma remain unaccounted for.”

The reason for the standoff is that Khartoum is demanding U.N.-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur (UNAMID) hand over six Darfuris accused by Khartoum of instigating clashes in South Darfur’s Kalma Camp in late July that killed at least five people.

UNAMID has refused to do so without seeing evidence of their crimes and guarantees that they will have a fair trial.

“If access is not urgently restored, the situation risks deteriorating rapidly,” Holmes said.

Kalma was home to 100,000 Darfuris who fled their homes during rampages of rape, murder and looting by militia in Sudan’s remote west. The Sudanese government has had no presence in Kalma — Darfur’s most volatile camp — for years because of hostile residents.

Many residents have fled Kalma due to the recent violence, but the United Nations estimates that some 50,000 refugees remain in the camp.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur seven years ago, accusing Khartoum of neglect. A counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million from their homes to miserable camps, sparking one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The United Nations says as many 300,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003. Sudan blames Western media for exaggerating the conflict and the death toll, which it puts at 10,000.

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