Darfur development workers kidnapped as situation worsens
Three staff working for a Sudanese non-government agency supported by churches and aid groups have been kidnapped in Darfur. They were hijacked at gunpoint on Thursday while visiting the Zam Zam camp in El Fasher.
The Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) is partnered by the UK-based international agency Christian Aid, which says it will stay in close contact with SUDO and will provide support as requested.
Stephanie Brigden, Christian Aid's Sudan policy officer said: 'The situation in Darfur is deteriorating and this is making it hazardous for non-governmental organisations to operate in the region. As a result, many people in Darfur are not getting the assistance they need.'
It is thought that the SUDO workers were taken by members of a local militia group. SUDO staff were told of the hijacking immediately, by residents of the camp. They have not yet been able to locate their staff or the hijackers.
The Sudan Social Development Organisation has been delivering health and sanitation facilities to people living in camps across the region. This is one of many incidents taking place in Darfur as the security situation worsens.
During the past week, in West Darfur, attacks in Gosmeina have left 29 civilians dead. In Aro Sharow, a camp for internal refugees, more than 80 makeshift shelters were burnt down following an attack by around 250 armed militia on horses and camels.
Estimates for Darfuri Africans killed by government forces and militia since February 2003 range from 180,000 to 400,000. Over 2.5 million people have been displaced and remain at mortal risk, facing continued violence, malnutrition and disease, say US and British development agencies.
In June and July 2005 Sojourners (headed up by the Rev Jim Wallis), Cedar Ridge Community Church, Africa Action, Genocide Intervention Fund and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in the USA organised a series of five worship vigils in Washington DC highlighting the Darfur situation. The action was called Worship for Justice.
Leading NGOs and church groups in the United States and France have been urging United Nations mandated peace enforcement operations in Darfur, Sudan. Protect Darfur (UK), backed by 118 members of parliament, is also a partner in the initiative.