Aid agencies at risk if they speak out about Darfur

Almost 80 percent of aid agencies feel they cannot speak out about the full horror of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur for fear of endangering their work or being expelled, according to research released today. Nearly two thirds of those surveyed also said they could not reveal details of restrictions on their work.

The publication of the findings coincides with the launch today of a major new Disasters Emergency Committee appeal to raise money for aid work in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic.

The survey of 46 international aid agencies by humanitarian news and information website Reuters AlertNet found that 78 per cent felt they could not talk about who was behind attacks on civilians and aid workers and 70 per cent could not comment on the incidence of rape.

One agency official told researchers: “I'm thinking all the time about the security of our staff – if there could be any retribution. That’s our main concern.”

AlertNet’s editor, Martyn Broughton said: “Journalists and the public depend on those agencies to know what’s going on. But we’ve shown that they’re afraid to talk. Self-censorship may be another crisis in Darfur.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s leading international aid charities have today launched a joint emergency appeal through umbrella group the Disaster Emergency Committee.

The campaign’s celebrity-studded launch is timed to coincide with the run up to the African rainy season, which increases the risk of disease and makes the delivery of aid much more difficult.

A DEC spokesperson said the organisation did not set targets for fundraising appeals, but added that its associated charities needed at least £10m to continue to provide aid during the rainy season, and at least double that to continue through the African summer.

Twelve of the DEC’s 13 members are involved in the campaign. They are the British Red Cross, Cafod, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

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