UN missions examine conditions in strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan

UN missions examine conditions in strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan

Refugees from Darfur, Sudan
A high-level United Nations humanitarian mission today headed to Darfur in western Sudan, where an estimated 1 million people have been uprooted in an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Arab militias against the local black African population, including more than 100,000 people who have fled to neighbouring Chad.

The mission head, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director James Morris, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, Tom Eric Vraalsen and other senior members of the team met President Omar Hassan el-Basir in the capital, Khartoum, before leaving for Darfur, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a news conference the United Nations hopes to persuade the Sudanese Government to put an end to the human rights violations before "it is too late."

"As you know we've have had some very worrying reports about atrocities being committed there - reports which, as I told the Commission on Human Rights on 7 April, fill me with a deep sense of foreboding," he said.

While in Darfur, the UN mission is scheduled to meet local officials and community leaders, non-government organizations (NGOs) and representatives of international bodies to review issues of civilian protection and humanitarian access.

The mission will assess Darfur people's plight, which refugee workers in the Sudanese-Chadian border area have called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In addition to the humanitarian mission, a five-member team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is in Sudan to investigate reports of human rights abuses.

That mission, which previously had spent nine days in refugee camps in Chad, left Geneva for Khartoum on 20 April, and Khartoum for Darfur on 22 April. It was expected back in Geneva this week.