29 May 2010Visiting Darfur today, the top United Nations humanitarian official emphasized that the situation in the war-ravaged Sudanese region remains serious, as recent clashes between the Government and rebels have uprooted tens of thousands of people from their homes. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have suspended operations in eastern Jebel Marra due to insecurity. In his meetings today with the acting Governor of South Darfur and other officials in Nyala, Under-Secretary-General John Holmes emphasized the need for the Government to allow and facilitate access for humanitarian agencies. “The problem in eastern Jebel Marra is that we don’t know what the situation is because we don’t have access,” he said. Mr. Holmes – on the third day of his four-day visit to Sudan – also expressed serious concern over the safety of aid workers in Darfur. A staff member from the United States working with the NGO Samaritan’s Purse has been held since being abducted in South Darfur on 18 May, the latest in a string of kidnappings in recent months. In Nyala, he toured the Sakale Ali Wali settlement, where some 1,000 displaced families have been given title to their land for building permanent structures. While they have been given relatively little assistance, their initiative in providing a better life for themselves and their children is evident, despite difficult circumstances. “We need to recognize and to support the efforts of IDP [internally displaced persons] communities to build and sustain livelihoods and move beyond hand-outs,” he said. “We can see here a step in that direction and it is encouraging.” Seven years of war between military forces and rebel groups have killed some 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million more from their homes in Darfur. Mr. Holmes arrived in Sudan on Wednesday after visiting neighbouring Chad during which he toured a region in the east where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by inter-communal fighting and a spill-over of the Darfur conflict. His first stop in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, was in southern Sudan, where he expressedalarm at the threats to vulnerable people in the area posed by food insecurity, displacements and inter-tribal violence, which he called a “recipe for disaster.” The area is scheduled to hold a referendum on independence early next year as part of a 2005 peace accord that ended 20 years of civil war with the northern-based national Government. Tomorrow Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, travels to Khartoum for the final day of his visit to Sudan, where he will meet Government, UN and NGO representatives.