Annan dispatches senior envoy to Sudan for talks on Darfur progress

Video of press briefing [27mins] The top United Nations envoy to Sudan will travel there tomorrow to hold the first talks with its leaders about the progress made by Khartoum and the UN since they signed a joint communiqué about alleviating the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.Secretary-General Kofi Annan dispatched his Special Representative Jan Pronk to participate in the first meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), which was set up on 3 July, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said today.But the meeting will take place against a background of continuing insecurity in Darfur, with UN humanitarian agencies reporting violent clashes between government forces and two rebel groups, and fighting among tribal groups as well.In South Darfur, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has noted the increase presence recently of Arab militias known as the Janjaweed. Allied to the Sudanese Government, the Janjaweed stand accused of attacking black African villagers, burning their homes and killing or raping many civilians.Briefing reporters in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said his worst fear was that the insecurity would worsen and worsen until aid agencies felt they had to withdraw for their own safety.”Our trucks are looted, our humanitarian workers are threatened and attacked, and that’s not necessarily only the fault of the Government. There are many militias and other forces” in the region, he said.But Mr. Egeland said the Sudanese Government had generally improved humanitarian access to Darfur by lifting obstacles, as it promised to do in the communiqué signed after talks between Mr. Annan and senior government ministers.In that declaration, Khartoum said it would lift humanitarian restrictions and also take measures to end the impunity of people who are committing human rights abuses in Darfur. The UN said it would provide urgent aid relief and play its part in any peace efforts.Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that it has trained 30 doctors in the states of North and South Darfur in safe motherhood practices, the treatment of sexual abuse and family planning methods.At the same time, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that poor sanitation means tens of thousands of children across Darfur are at high risk of contracting cholera and other water-borne diseases.More than half of the estimated one million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur now have access to clean water, but UNICEF officials said the agency needs to step up the pace of latrine construction to avoid serious hygiene problems – especially given the arrival of the rainy season.Apart from the JIM talks in Khartoum, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, will take part in a separate political dialogue on resolving the Darfur conflict in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tomorrow.