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Civilians in West Darfur Deprived of Assistance as Attacks Intensify

Khartoum/New York, November 16, 2006 — Against the backdrop of a peace agreement that has resulted in mounting confrontations, the situation for people throughout Darfur, Sudan continues to worsen, according to the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Acts of violence committed by all armed groups against civilians and aid workers are increasing, and many people have been forced to flee their homes. Intensifying violence is preventing aid from reaching people who are enduring increasing attacks in the Jebel Moon region, north of West Darfur's capital El Geneina. Although on a smaller scale than the violence directed against civilians here in 2003, recent attacks have caused thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

Increasing attacks in the Jebel Moon region have caused several thousand civilians to flee their homes, but no aid can reach them.

Khartoum/New York — Against the backdrop of a peace agreement that has resulted in mounting confrontations, the situation for people throughout Darfur, Sudan continues to worsen, according to the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Acts of violence committed by all armed groups against civilians and aid workers are increasing, and many people have been forced to flee their homes. Intensifying violence is preventing aid from reaching people who are enduring increasing attacks in the Jebel Moon region, north of West Darfur's capital El Geneina. Although on a smaller scale than the violence directed against civilians here in 2003, recent attacks have caused thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

In early November, a team from MSF went to Seleah, in the Jebel Moon region, to prepare for an emergency medical aid program. The team found a town in a state of siege. On October 29th, 21 villages in the Seleah region, including Haijelihah camp (with an estimated population of 9,934 [source: ICRC – General Food Distribution – 1st semester 2006]), were attacked and emptied of inhabitants. There is no concrete information today about their whereabouts or medical needs. The few families who managed to return to Seleah reported that several dozen men, women, and children had been killed. As access to the town was impossible, the 51 injured people who were able to reach the Seleah health center had to wait several days before being transported to the MSF-supported hospital in El Geneina, the only surgical facility in the area. Four patients died because of the lack of adequate care. Some vehicles transporting the wounded were then attacked en route, sometimes more than once. Today, Seleah is under siege and the MSF team has not been able to return to set up emergency medical operations. Two severely wounded patients are still waiting to be referred.

On November 11, the town of Sirba, located just 25 miles from El Geneina, was also attacked. Nine people arrived at El Geneina hospital with gunshot wounds. There are reports of other victims, but mounting insecurity prevents any medical assistance from reaching them.

Because of the lack of access to these areas, MSF teams cannot evaluate the full extent of the needs, and its medical teams are unable to help those directly affected by the violence. Humanitarian space is extremely reduced in Darfur today. It is imperative that MSF teams reach the most affected populations. MSF urgently calls on the government of Sudan, and other parties to the conflict, to allow independent humanitarian aid workers free access to populations in need.

MSF has been working in Darfur since 2003. Today, more than 2,000 people provide emergency assistance in 17 areas.