Home | News    Wednesday 12 May 2004

Help to Darfur conflict victims too slow, agencies say

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NAIROBI, May 12, 2004 (dpa) — Aid agencies say help to the victims of the conflict in western Sudan is too slow in coming, and that relief efforts have been delayed by the Khartoum government.

"Since the beginning of May we have waited for the necessary permits to distribute aid to around 100,000 displaced people in and around the town Kutum", Ruediger Ehrler of the aid organization German AgroAction said Wednesday.

Ehrler said over 1,000 tons of food was sitting in the town Kutum in Darfur, waiting to be distributed.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said they too had faced some constraints in delivering aid.

"There are still difficulties in reaching all the locations we want to reach", a WFP spokesperson said Wednesday.

WFP is currently distributing assistance targeting 800,000 people.

The aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that efforts to help Sudanese refugees in neighbouring Chad were painfully slow" and that the crisis there was escalating.

"Malnutrition is rising, camps are insufficient and overcrowded, there is scarce food and water and many refugees remain at risk from violent cross-border attacks by Sudanese militia", MSF said in a statement Tuesday.

An MSF worker said that in mid-April, his organization was admitting three or four children per week with severe acute malnutrition, but that the number had now increased to nearly 25 children per week.

Apart from a rising number of refugees suffering from bloody diarrhoea, exacerbated by inadequate sanitation in the refugee camps, MSF said the Sudanese Arab militia known as Janjaweed frequently attack across the border.

"Refugees are often injured or killed as a result of these cross- border raids. They have no protection whatsoever", said an MSF worker.

MSF said that more supplies, more aid staff and more efficiency by the U.N. and other aid organizations were needed to improve the situation for the Sudanese refugees in Chad.

Darfur has been the site of heavy clashes between nomadic groups of Arab descent and Black African residents. The conflict over the areas limited resources is one of the worst humanitarian disasters worldwide, according to the U.N.

Since the conflict began over a year ago, more than 1.2 million people have been affected. At least 750,000 are believed to be displaced within Darfur, while over 100,000 have fled over the border to Chad. At least 10,000 people are believed to have died.

A ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and the local Darfur rebel groups was signed in Chad in early April, but the truce has reportedly been broken on several occasions.

The conflict became international recently when Chad accused Sudanese Arab militias of crossing into Chad to attack villages there. According to Chads government, its forces killed 60 Arab militiamen last week.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Sudans Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail proposed the two countries would patrol the border together.

"We are going to propose a joint border patrol together with the Chadians, to stop any infiltration from either side", he said.

The U.N., as well as several western governments and the human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, has said Khartoum supports ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

The African Union recently sent a team to Darfur with the aim of deploying ceasefire monitors in the troubled region.

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