Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Affairs, expresses relief at the release of 16 humanitarian workers detained by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) this weekend in North Darfur, Sudan. The group was released on the morning of June 6 and were not harmed while being held by the SLM/A. The team represented a number of humanitarian actors including ECHO, the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission, World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Save the Children-UK. ECHOs representative was Nairobi based Regional Health Advisor Dr Enric Freixa. He was in Darfur to assess humanitarian needs and advise on the health component of ECHOs latest 10 million decision for the Darfur crisis.
“I am shocked that SLM/A has acted in this way, just days after it made firm commitments to assist humanitarian efforts in Darfur at a donor conference in Geneva on 3-4 June. It is essential that full and safe access is ensured for humanitarian professionals so that a wide ranging emergency aid programme can be implemented. If the security of aid workers cannot be guaranteed by fighting parties then aid efforts will be hampered and the people of Darfur will be caused more unnecessary suffering. As one of the largest donors to the crisis in Sudan, the European Commission requests again the government and the rebel groups to end restrictions on access and protect civilians and relief workers, as promised by both parties in Geneva.”