UN urges Sudan to allow humanitarian aid into Darfur refugee camp

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations urged Sudanese authorities on Tuesday to allow humanitarian organizations access to a Darfur refugee camp which has been closed to aid agencies for more than a week following an outbreak of violence.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said about 50,000 people are still believed to be in Kalma camp in South Darfur and several thousand have taken refuge outside a community police center run by the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force.

"We are concerned about the shortages of food and fuel. Deliveries have stopped and fuel for water pumps has run out. And so, obviously, sanitation is a major concern, because it's the middle of the rainy season," Nesirky said.

"The government must resume full humanitarian access to Kalma and to surrounding areas where displaced people have fled," he said.

The Save Darfur Coalition called the Sudanese government's behavior "atrocious" and said its denial of humanitarian aid and threat to relocate the Kalma camp was leaving families even more vulnerable to hunger and disease.

The coalition urged the United States and the international community to pressure the government to allow immediate, unimpeded access for U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations.

Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights, warned that "the camps aren't capable of sustaining life."

"Without food, water and medicine, the people in the camps will begin to die, just as surely as if the government were attacking them with conventional weapons," he said in a statement.

Samuel Hendricks, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Darfur, said late last week that at least five people had died and thousands have fled the camp following demonstrations protesting peace talks that turned deadly.

Nesirky said there also have been recent reports of sporadic firing in the camp.

The commander of the U.N.-AU force, known as UNAMID, visited Kalma camp over the weekend and the force has stepped up patrols in and around Kalma "and is on high alert," he said.

The top UNAMID representative in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, also continues to engage the government "at all levels to peacefully resolve the situation" and ensure the protection of all displaced people and civilians, Nesirky said.

At a briefing late last month, the Security Council was told of rising tensions and clashes in Kalma between supporters and opponents of peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

The talks in Doha are the first between Sudanese government officials and Darfur rebels in nearly two years, after comprehensive peace talks broke down in late 2007.

The council condemned targeted killings and urged all parties to join the peace process and refrain from violence.

Fighting in Darfur that began with a 2003 rebellion by ethnic African groups who accused the Arab-led government of neglecting the vast desert region has left up to 300,000 people dead and forced 2.7 million to flee their homes, according to U.N. figures.