Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked for USAID's Food for Peace Program and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Save the Children, delivering food and humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations. I've visited people all over Africa who have lost everything: their homes, their livelihoods, their families and their friends because of violence, war, famine and other catastrophes. In Sudan, the situation is particularly bad -- the UN calls it the world's worst humanitarian disaster. Currently there are 2.5 million people living in IDP camps, driven from their lands by insecurity and violence.
Because I know the fear in which these people live -- I've gone to Darfur repeatedly -- I was troubled when I read press reports that displaced persons were being ordered to move. In addition, the Government of Sudan has said it is going to divide one IDP camp in Darfur into several smaller camps. I'm not on the ground in Darfur right now, but I want to take a moment to reiterate the U.S. policy on the movement of IDPs.
Our government condemns any efforts to pressure internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur to leave IDP camps before the displaced have voluntarily decided to return to their homes. We also condemn any forced movements of IDPs. We insist that the Government of Sudan adhere to the international agreements that it has made with respect to ensuring IDP returns in Darfur are voluntary. Moreover, any IDP sites must meet all international humanitarian standards, be fully accessible to humanitarian workers, and be secure.
The people in Darfur have suffered enough. They don’t need to be forced to move against their will.