Sudan humanitarian crisis characterized by violence and fear, UN official says

7 May 2004

The humanitarian crisis in strife-torn western Sudan, one of the worst in the world, is one of "massive displacement, critical humanitarian needs and extreme levels of violence and fear," a senior United Nations relief official told the Security Council today.

"It is hard to overstate the level of fear we witnessed," World Food Programme (WFP) chief James Morris said in describing the recent mission he led to the three states of Darfur. "In fact, in all my travels as the head of the World Food Programme, I have never seen people who are as frightened as those displaced in Darfur."

According to UN relief agencies, more than 1 million people have been uprooted from their homes and 110,000 others have fled across the border into eastern Chad.

The ceasefire that was agreed on 8 April between the Government and the rebel forces was holding, "but the same is not true for attacks by the Janjaweed militia against civilians, including IDPs [internally displaced persons] in and around camps. These atrocities have to stop," he said according to the text of his closed-door briefing released to the media.

The Janjaweed militia members are identified by themselves and their victims as Arab and their targets belong to the non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit peoples.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said he had instructed the Sudanese army to provide protection and security, Mr. Morris said, but "the impression we had of the affected population…is that they do not distinguish between the Janjaweed militia and the regular army. They appear to be equally scared of both."

To correct this, the army and police have to take decisive action to protect the population, disarm militia members and exclude them from security and protection tasks, he said.

"At the moment Janjaweed are sometimes used to 'guard' IDP camps, creating virtual prison camps surrounded by militias, who, on a daily basis, attack women and children in the camps or on their way to search for food, fuel, or water. It is hard to imagine a more cruel or frightening situation," he said.

In the town of Mornei, West Darfur, 60,000 IDPs have crowded in with the original 3,000 inhabitants. There was now a serious shortage of water and sanitary facilities and the malnutrition rate was high and rising, especially for children under 5. But Mornei was just one of more than a dozen overcrowded IDP concentrations in Darfur, Mr. Morris said.

The cost of providing humanitarian assistance in Darfur between April and the end of the year would total $142 million, according to a release from the UN Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP).

 

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