KHARTOUM, Nov 26 (AFP) — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross began a three-day tour of Sudan’s troubled Darfur region Friday amid a sudden surge in fighting between government and rebel forces.
Jakob Kellenberger arrived in Khartoum on Thursday on his second visit this year to see the situation in Darfur, where the conflict has triggered what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
On Friday, he travelled to al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur state, and will remain in the region until November 28.
“The purpose of the visit is to assess the humanitarian situation in Darfur and to hold discussions with the government of Sudan on how to improve the protection of the civilian population,” the ICRC said in a statement.
He was scheduled to tour camps housing some of the estimated 1.5 million displaced people and meet with Louis Michel, the European Union’s Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner who is also visiting.
The ICRC said that since Kellenberger’s last visit in March, humanitarian access has “considerably improved,” allowing the agency to develop aid operations with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.
The fighting began in February 2003 when rebels launched an uprising against what they allege is the political and economic marginalisation of black Africans by the Arab-led government.
Khartoum’s response was to unleash the Arab Janjaweed, who have been blamed by Western officials and aid workers for killings, rape and widespread violations of human rights.
Since then, more than 70,000 people have been killed or have died from hunger and disease in the area, according to the United Nations, and another 1.5 million have been displaced.
Each side in the 21-month-old Darfur conflict has repeatedly accused the other of violating a ceasefire.