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As Oslo talks open, Darfur is more desperate than ever

May 4th, 2008 · No Comments

Darfur more desperate than ever
Nairobi – As donor countries open fresh talks in Olso Monday on helping the crisis-ravaged people of Sudan’s Darfur province, aid for the region is more urgently needed than ever.

Peace talks have changed little since the conflict broke out five years ago, and the fragmentation of the different rebel groups means that prospects of a negotiated settlement are ever more distant.

Millions meanwhile languish in the deceptive security of the refugee camps, trapped and unable to return to their home villages. And their numbers only grow.

Just a few days ago, soldiers of the joint United Nations and African Union protection force had to evacuate villages in northern Darfur which had got caught between the fronts of the rebels and government troops.

The latest UN report on the Darfur situation is marked only by pessimism, pointing to the number of refugees now at 2.5 million, while 200,000 people are now believed to have been killed since the fighting broke out in early 2003.

John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, says the number of people to have died could be as high as 300,000 if you include victims of disease and epidemics sweeping the refugee camps.

Rodolphe Adada, Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur, has repeatedly warned that too little is being done to ensure rapid equipping and deployment of the 20,000-strong UNAMID force which is detailed to protect civilians.

Three months after the mission began, barely 40 per cent of the force had been deployed, Adada said last month in a report to the United Nations, and full deployment would probably not be reached before 2009.

Yet all the while, ‘intensified violence and a polarization of the conflict’ was being observed. Latest airstrikes on villages in northern Darfur were one example of this.

It is not just villagers who are threatened by the murdering, pillaging and raping of government troops and their allied militias. International aid organisations, too, are being threatened.

A few weeks ago a Doctors Without Borders clinic offering refuge to hundreds of people fleeing the fighting was also attacked.

In addition, there have been increasing attacks by bandits, making it evermore difficult to get supplies to the refugee camps.

A number of drivers of vehicles taking in World Food Programme supplies have been killed since the beginning of the year, and 60 of their vehicles have been hijacked.

‘Attacks on the WFP supply lines are attacks on the most vulnerable people in Darfur,’ said WFP Director Josette Sheeran.

At the moment it is possible to bring in only 900 tons of food a day to Darfur – just half the amount the WFP would want to be shipping before the start of the rainy season.

This has meant having to to reduce the rations for some three million people by 40 per cent since the beginning of May. The refugees have been receiving a daily ration of 1,242 calories instead of the 2,156 they had been getting before.

Amid the misery and violence, the people of Darfur at least have the consolation – compared with other crisis regions – of Hollywood stars and other celebrities drawing attention to their plight.

Darfur has at least kept more in the public eye than many of the long forgotten conflict regions like Somalia or Congo.

Tags: darfur

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