Charity pulls out of Darfur after murders

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The Independent Online

The Save the Children charity announced today that it was withdrawing from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan after the murders earlier this month of two of its aid workers.

The Save the Children charity announced today that it was withdrawing from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan after the murders earlier this month of two of its aid workers.

The staff, both Sudanese nationals, were in clearly-marked humanitarian vehicles when they came under fire on December 12.

Mike Aaronson, director general of Save the Children UK, said that 250,000 people were dependent on the charity's assistance in Darfur, and the withdrawal was "probably the worst decision I have ever had to take in my time at Save the Children".

He was scathing of efforts to restore peace in the area by international organisations such as the United Nations and African Union, which is monitoring a ceasefire brokered between the Khartoum government and rebel groups.

There were "endless violations" of the ceasefire by both sides and a failure to clamp down on "increasing lawlessness", said Mr Aaronson, who described the situation in Darfur as "an appalling indictment of the effectiveness of the international community".

Mr Aaronson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Very sadly, we are going to have to withdraw from Darfur. We lost two more of our staff the Sunday before last, brutally murdered at the side of the road, despite being very evidently humanitarian workers.

"Although we are used to working in very tough and difficult and dangerous places, there is a bottom line in terms of what we can ask our staff to do."

Mr Aaronson predicted that the withdrawal of Save the Children's 350 staff would not be the only departure of aid workers from Darfur.

"This is not just about one agency deciding to leave," he said. "There is a real threat to the whole humanitarian operation at the moment.

"It is bad, because the humanitarian situation is still very pressing and urgent."

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