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8/22/04 - DARFUR UPDATE - 2004-08-23

Despite some apparent improvements in access for humanitarian workers, people continue to suffer and die from attacks, disease, and malnutrition in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Security remains a major concern. On July 30th, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution giving the Sudanese government thirty days to rein in government-backed Arab Janjaweed militias that have been attacking African Sudanese. The Janjaweed campaign of murder, rape, and burning of villages has driven more than one-million people from their homes.

Francis Deng is the U-N representative for internally displaced persons. He recently visited Darfur, where he was told by Sudanese officials that many people in camps were beginning to feel secure enough to return to their villages. But Mr. Deng said that in the camps, people told him a much different story:

“People said that insecurity had not gone entirely. That while the camps themselves were quite secure, venturing outside the camps exposed people to attacks and killings and even rape. And people were therefore reluctant to go back to their villages.”

The U.S. is working with the U-N, the African Union, other countries, and non-governmental relief groups to get aid to people in Darfur, along with more than one-hundred thousand who have fled to Chad. Richard Lee, spokesman for the U-N World Food Program, says the situation is “extremely serious. We’re in the middle of the rainy season,” he says, “which is making the lives of the displaced people much more difficult and also increasing difficulty in actually getting aid to those people.” Relief workers are doing everything they can, says Mr. Lee, “to get food out to the most remote areas using airlifts and airdrops. But it is an enormous task.”

Attacks by the Sudanese government-supported Janjaweed Arab militias have killed thousands of African Sudanese in Darfur and contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of others. Continuing massive relief efforts are needed to keep many more people from dying. But as President George W. Bush said, “No amount of aid can substitute for true and lasting peace. The government of Sudan must stop the violence of the Janjaweed militias, and all parties must respect the cease-fire.”