Describing the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Sudan's Darfur region as being "of extraordinary gravity, magnitude and urgency," the United Nations, donor countries and aid agencies today wrapped up a meeting by appealing for at least $236 million to help an estimated 2.2 million victims of the war and forced ethnic displacement survive until the end of this year.
In a joint statement issued after the one-day donor alert meeting in Geneva, the UN, the United States and the European Union said hundreds of thousands of lives will be at risk in Darfur "unless immediate protection and relief are provided."
The triumvirate warned that the situation in Darfur, an impoverished region in Sudan's west, is so dire that donors will have to maintain their support at least until 2006. Civilians still face the threat of attack from the Janjaweed militias and many others are spilling into neighbouring Chad to escape the violence.
Today's meeting, organized by the UN, included representatives from 36 countries, including Sudan, as well as from the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and many non-governmental organizations.
At a press briefing following the meeting, Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the participants agreed to try to achieve a series of relief targets for the next 90 days.
These include: feeding up to one million people in Darfur; providing basic drugs and health care services to 90 per cent of the estimated one million people internally displaced; providing boreholes, water pumps and water tanks in camps for the internally displaced; and helping refugees in Chad build temporary shelters.
Mr. Egeland also said that civilians continue to report that the Janjaweed are committing atrocities such as murders, rapes and the destruction and pillaging of villages, despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in April.
The joint statement of the UN, US and EU urged all parties to respect the ceasefire, and said the Sudanese Government had obligations to ensure the safety of its citizens. It also called for humanitarian workers to be allowed unimpeded access to Darfur.
More than a million people are internally displaced within Darfur, up to 150,000 refugees have fled to Chad and at least another 700,000 people have been severely affected in Darfur since fighting broke out there early last year between the Sudanese Government and two rebel groups.
A UN human rights report released last month found that numerous atrocities had been committed by the Janjaweed militias, a loose collection of apparently Arab fighters, that were recruited, armed and sponsored by Khartoum.
The UN World Food Programme's (WFP) Executive Director, James T. Morris, said acute malnutrition was becoming a major problem, especially among children, in the camps of refugees and internally displaced people.
At the Geneva meeting the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said $46 million is needed simply to help the thousands of displaced children in Darfur.
Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, also told the meeting that he has asked his office to send six human rights officers to Darfur as soon as possible to monitor the situation. Two extra officers will be based in Khartoum.