Assist the Desperate Sudanese

[ The world community is largely distracted from the crisis in Sudan which has led to the deaths of five percent of children under age 5 in Darfur in the last three months. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports insufficient international donations to address the crisis. You can assist through aid groups including

Thanks to Bill Bryant of OK-global for this update. –BL ]

Aid Group Says Starvation Looms In Sudan’s Darfur Region

May 21, 2004 | U.N. Wire

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres warned yesterday that the entire population of Sudan’s western Darfur region ? about 6 million people ? was “teetering on the verge of mass starvation.”

In a statement, the charity group said that in two Darfur provinces, 21.5 percent of children under age 5 suffered from acute malnutrition, and about 5 percent of children under age 5 in families surveyed in Darfur had died in the last three months. The statement said most had died from “simple causes,” such as malaria, diarrhea and hunger.

The organization warned that unless huge masses of food aid were delivered, the situation would become more dire.

“The aid community and the United Nations has so far failed to be present and provide adequate levels of desperately needed food, water and shelter,” the statement said (Agence France-Presse, May 20). Last week, MSF accused the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees of being “painfully slow” in helping those affected by the Darfur conflict, but UNHCR said it had not received sufficient international donations (BBC Online, May 20). The United Nations and other aid personnel have also faced difficulty reaching Darfur because of government visa restrictions.

The Sudanese government said yesterday that beginning Monday, aid workers will no longer need special permits to enter the war-ravaged western Darfur region, and embassies will grant standard visas to such workers within 48 hours, Integrated Regional Information Networks reports today (May 21).

BBC Online reported yesterday that Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail urged African countries to send peacekeepers to the troubled region as soon as possible.

The inaugural meeting of an international commission mandated to oversee the cease-fire between the government and Darfur rebel groups has been postponed, however. It was supposed to take place this weekend in Addis Ababa, where the African Union is based.

“Representatives of the rebel groups were unable to make it to Ethiopia due to logistical problems, as they put it,” AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit told a news conference in Addis Ababa today.

Both the government and rebels have been accused of violating the cease-fire, which was signed last month, but Djinnit said that since AU observers have not deployed in Darfur, he was unable to verify the accusations (AFP, May 21).

The United Nations said this week that fighting in Darfur has affected more than 2 million people, nearly double the previous estimate (U.N. Wire, May 18).

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