Increasing insecurity forces Oxfam to withdraw from Darfur’s largest camp

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 19 Jun 2007

Oxfam International announced their withdrawl from Gereida camp – home to 130 000 displaced people – as ongoing security issues have not been addressed.

Oxfam International’s decision to permanently phase out activities in Gereida means that the largest refugee camp in Darfur, where more than 130,000 people have sought refuge from violence will not receive health education and livelihood assistance. This work has helped prevent the spread of disease in the vast, crowded camp and also provided opportunities for people to improve their livelihoods and reduce their dependency on aid.

The agency blamed the Sudan Liberation Movement’s lack of action to improve security in the area and address violence against aid workers, in the six months since an unprecedented attack forced the evacuation of some staff and partial suspension of humanitarian operations.

“This was the last resort, and we regret that we have been forced to withdraw,” said Oxfam Australia Executive Director, Andrew Hewett. While recognising the Sudanese government’s recent decision to accept a combined African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force as a step in the right direction, he was clear about what needs to happen now.

“Australia must do its share to ensure that the population of Darfur is safe from violence. Within this country there is enormous expertise in leading complex peacekeeping missions,” said Mr Hewett.

“We need to do everything we can to bring this expertise to the , which is currently the worst humanitarian emergency the world faces,” he continued.

“The area in which aid agencies can safely work within the has been reduced by two-thirds over the last year,” he added.

The Australian government has shown the way assisting those in need in in the past by providing significant aid through organisations such as Oxfam.

Oxfam has been working in Gereida since 2004, scaling up its program considerably in early 2006 in response to the huge number of displaced people pouring into the camp. Recent attacks on aid workers, the theft of vehicles and equipment means we cannot continue to put our staff at risk. Oxfam continues to work in Um Dukhun in West Darfur.  In North Darfur, we are working in Kebkabiya and the surrounding areas, Abu Shouk and El Salaam camps and in Shangil Tobayi.

Oxfam has reached an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that it will take over maintenance of water and sanitation services on a long-term basis. However, Oxfam’s health education and livelihoods work in the town will cease after August.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Andrew Hewett, please call Melany Markham on +61 407 515 559 or +613 9289 9415.