31 August 2007A United Nations official today warned that the humanitarian situation is worsening in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region, with more people being displaced, increased security risks to aid workers and potentially rising malnutrition rates. “We believe it’s important to keep reminding ourselves that a credible ceasefire and controlling the lawlessness in Darfur are really the two bottom lines that need to be sustained and this is, of course, the intent of the international community,” UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström told reporters at the world body’s Headquarters in New York. In the period from June until 21 August, 55,000 people have been newly displaced, which bring the total of those fleeing their homes since January to a quarter million. Out of a total population in Darfur of 6.4 million, 2.2 million are displaced while four million are dependent on humanitarian assistance, she noted. “Also, the trend for aid workers is not positive,” she said, with a 150 per cent surge in incidents – including car hijackings, attacks on convoys and other acts of violence – against humanitarian staff. She also reminded reporters that attacks on relief providers are having an impact on Darfurians as well. Ms. Wahlström expressed concern regarding the recent expulsion by Sudanese officials of the country director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) CARE International. “We obviously think that this sends a very wrong signal to the international community and we would like to hope that the Sudanese authorities will reverse this decision,” she said. Recent spot surveys indicate that malnutrition is on the rise in the region, where at least 200,000 people have died since 2003 because of fighting between rebel groups, Sudanese Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias. The results show current malnutrition rates are “well over 17 per cent” in some areas, Ms. Wahlström said. “With the huge effort of the international humanitarian community from 2004, the situation stabilized from a health and nutritional perspective, so this is the first time we see the potential of a deterioration for which we are very worried and we put this in the context of the very unstable situation in the area,” she said. Ms. Wahlström voiced hope that the deployment of the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) from the start of next year will have a positive impact and contribute to improving the humanitarian situation.