Sudan expels Mercy Corps, 9 more aid groups from Darfur
Sudan ordered at least 10 humanitarian groups — including Pacific Northwest-based Mercy Corps — expelled from Darfur on Wednesday...
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Sudan ordered at least 10 humanitarian groups — including Pacific Northwest-based Mercy Corps — expelled from Darfur on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the country's president.
Mercy Corps — with an office in Seattle and headquarters in Portland — has about 225 workers in Sudan, the vast majority of whom are Sudanese.
The aid organization has worked in Sudan for five years, and in the Darfur region has been helping some 200,000 people living in displacement camps. That work includes keeping the camps clean, building and supplying schools and providing training for health promotion, but those efforts will be suspended as a result of the revocation action.
"We sincerely hope that this decision will be reversed so we can get back to the critical business of saving and improving lives," said Mercy Corps President Nancy Lindborg.
Besides Mercy Corps, the nongovernmental aid groups ordered out are Oxfam, CARE, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-Holland, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarites and CHF International.
U.N. officials said about 76 international groups had been operating in Darfur, but the 10 aid groups ordered to leave did most of the work.
Aid groups protested, saying they had no connection to the court and that their absence could lead to a crisis for more than 2 million war-weary Sudanese who need shelter, food and clean water.
"It is absurd that we as an independent organization are caught up in a political and judicial process," the operational director of MSF-Holland, Arjan Hehenkamp, said.Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha confirmed that 10 "associations" were asked to stop operating.
"Whenever an organization takes humanitarian aid as a cover to achieve a political agenda that affects the security of the county and its stability, measures are to be taken by law to protect the country and its interests," he said.
U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said the groups were informed by the Sudanese government's Humanitarian Aid Commission that their legal registrations have been revoked, were given a list of assets for seizure and told they must leave north Sudan, which includes Darfur, "with immediate effect."
U.N. officials say up to 2.7 million have fled their homes. Many live in camps that nongovernmental organizations help run.
"If Oxfam's registration is revoked, it will affect more than 600,000 Sudanese people whom we provide with vital humanitarian and development aid, including clean water and sanitation on a daily basis," Penny Lawrence, Oxfam's international director, said in London.
Save the Children UK said it is helping about 50,000 children.
CARE, which has operated in Sudan for 28 years and has more than 650 staff in the country, said in a statement that it was providing 1.5 million people with food, water, sanitation, livelihood and health assistance.
Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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