29 April 2009Ensuring gender equality and promoting the participation of women in the search for peace in Darfur are among the aims of a new initiative launched by the United Nations in the strife-torn Sudanese region. Under a cooperation agreement announced today, police serving with the joint African Union-UN hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) will team up with the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to support innovative measures to boost the standing of women in the region.UNIFEM Regional Director Meryem Aslan urged both parties to enhance gender equality, raise the profile of women and address issues relating to all forms of discrimination against women, particularly in conflict situations. UNAMID Police are mandated to assist in harnessing the capacity of women to participate in the peace process through political representation, economic empowerment and protection from sexual and gender-based violence. Together, UNAMID Police and UNIFEM aim to create an enabling environment for women’s equal and meaningful participation in the process to bring peace to Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that in West Darfur, 10 out of 13 therapeutic feeding centres formerly run by expelled international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have maintained their activities. UNICEF is currently providing salaries or incentives to all staff working in these centres.The Government expelled 13 international NGOs and suspended the work of three national NGOs following the indictment on 4 March of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the region.A joint UN-NGO assessment in the health, nutrition and water and sanitation sectors conducted yesterday in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur found that basic services in the sectors are still operational, but a replenishment of some stocks is required.According to UN estimates, some 65,000 people have been newly displaced so far this year in Darfur. OCHA also reports that the state Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) has not handed over the keys to the UN Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC) to their warehouses in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.