2 May 2011The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur has announced a new initiative to help aid agencies access hard-to-reach communities in parts of the strife-torn Sudanese region. The three-week project is dubbed “Operation Spring Basket” and will involve visits to several villages which have been inaccessible to humanitarian workers for some time, according to a news release issued yesterday by the mission (UNAMID), which organized the initiative along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).“I can assure you that this will be an ongoing process. The humanitarian community will follow up in order to deliver humanitarian relief to those in need,” said Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID. The mission has been working for months with the Sudanese Government and non-signatory movements to open access to areas in the Jebel Marra region and other parts of North and West Darfur, which UN agencies believe may be in dire need of humanitarian assistance. “One of the foremost priorities for UNAMID is facilitating safe and free access for humanitarian agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] into areas that are suffering from conflict and difficult to reach because of it,” Mr. Gambari told reporters in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, after returning from a visit to several villages in the area. “We have undertaken intense negotiations and outreach to secure access to these areas, which are controlled by various parties. We will provide security and logistical support to the humanitarian community intending to bring assistance to the region, regardless of who controls the territory,” he added. According to UNAMID, humanitarian agencies working in Darfur continue to face challenges in accessing populations affected by conflict owing to the vastness of the territory, poor road conditions, erratic security and blockages posed by the parties.Despite the challenges, UNAMID is working to assist the population of the region, where it has been working since 2008 to quell the fighting and ease the humanitarian suffering.“We are fully committed to ensuring the protection of civilians where we can implement UNAMID’s core mandate of protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian delivery,” Mr. Gambari reaffirmed.