Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Plenty and penury in Darfur

By Louis Charbonneau

ZAM ZAM CAMP, Sudan (Reuters) - Markets stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables. Shiny new gas stations. Freshly built houses. Smooth paved roads. A pizzeria.

These are not images one would normally associate with Sudan's western Darfur region, where hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have died in five years of conflict. But they are all found in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state.

El Fasher is home to thousands of civilian and military personnel working for the United Nations-African Union joint peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), and while food here is plentiful, prices are inflated after poor harvests.

The United Nations says a "perfect storm" of growing violence, overcrowding in refugee camps and bad harvests could cause a food crisis in Darfur, home to the world's largest humanitarian operation.

Just 10 km from El Fasher's colourful market stalls, thousands of displaced Darfuris struggle to survive in the Zam Zam camp, battling disease, bandits and growing hunger.

These people used to get over 2,000 calories a day. Now they survive on 1,400 calories as aid agencies cut rations because of attacks on food convoys. Some of the children have bloated bellies, a possible sign of malnutrition.

Eric Reeves, a Darfur activist and professor of literature at Smith College in Massachusetts who has studied Sudan for nearly a decade, warns that ration cuts may cause "significant human starvation in the coming months." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

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