Saturday, October 22, 2005

Death toll in Darfur tops 100,000 since UN directive


MORE than 100,000 people are now believed to have died in the Darfur region of Sudan since the United Nations Security Council set a 30-day deadline last year for the Khartoum regime to begin to resolve the crisis in the area.

Humanitarian agencies and the African Union are warning that the situation in Darfur is again deteriorating, with five AU peacekeepers killed in the past week and parts of the region inaccessible after an aid convoy was ambushed and the staff stripped and beaten.

Shocking new evidence of atrocities committed by the Sudanese government and its janjaweed militia allies in Darfur region has emerged in previously confidential African Union reports, and in the United Nations' own briefing papers. The evidence includes accounts of rapes, murders and the razing of entire villages - accounts which have been confirmed by AU monitors.

The AU has sent thousands of troops to Darfur to try to maintain a ceasefire agreed by the warring parties but it has concluded that all sides are breaching that agreement.

The AU yesterday missed a new deadline to increase troop numbers in the region to more than 7,000, mainly because it remains $173 million short of the money it needs to finance the operation. It is also short of fuel and is being hindered by the Sudanese government, which has refused to allow a consignment of Canadian-supplied armoured personnel carriers to enter the country.

On 30 July last year the UN security council gave the Sudanese government 30 days to make progress on pledges to resolve what is now widely recognised as genocide, and what the UN itself described as the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

Since then, thousands more people have died. Exact figures remain hard to come by, but World Health Organisation's estimates suggest about 100,000 have died since that deadline was set. WHO estimated that about 10,000 people a month died last year, and although that figure has now fallen to about 5,000 a month, the death rate among children under the age of five is double the overall average and the situation is described as "extremely fragile".

Yesterday, the aid agency Oxfam described the situation in Darfur as "catastrophic". Spokesman Malcolm Fleming said humanitarian agencies were increasingly being targeted in violent banditry and looting and fresh clashes between government and rebels continued to destabilise large parts of the region.

"The security situation is not improving and thousands of people are facing the threat of horrific violence each day," he said. Because large numbers of roads are not safe to use, aid agencies are having trouble accessing camps and delivering supplies. The parties continue to break the ceasefire, causing more death and displacement."

He said there was a desperate need for food, clean water and medical attention inside the camps for those displaced by the violence.

"The scale of the Darfur crisis is still catastrophic. Nearly two million people are stuck inside camps and many are going into their third year of displacement," he said.

source: the scotsman

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