Rainy season strikes crisis-plagued Darfur, Sudan

21 June 2004
Fred Eckhard

One of the world's worst humanitarian situations - the strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan - could deteriorate further now that the area's rainy season has begun, hampering the delivery of life-sustaining aid and fostering a breeding ground for infectious diseases, a United Nations spokesman said today.

Diarrhoea, measles, meningitis and malaria are among the illnesses that could spread rapidly in Darfur, where more than a million people are estimated to have become internally displaced (IDPs) since conflict broke out early last year between the Sudanese Government and two rebel groups. At least 150,000 others have become refugees in neighbouring Chad.

Briefing reporters in New York, spokesman Fred Eckhard said the rain will make many of Darfur's roads impassable. And the relief effort continues to be hampered by restrictions placed by the Sudanese Government on the delivery of aid and other services.

Many of the refugees and IDPs said they fled their homes after their villages were attacked by Janjaweed militias, loose bands of Arab fighters who are recruited and armed by the Khartoum Government. A UN human rights report issued last month found that the Janjaweed had committed numerous human rights abuses, including murders and rapes.

While access to Darfur has improved, Mr. Eckhard said, some restrictions continue, including Sudanese customs' slow clearance of vehicles and humanitarian goods and troubles in registering non-government organizations (NGOs) so they can work in the area.

Clashes between one of the rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), and the Janjaweed near the town of El Fasher have also hindered humanitarian aid deliveries.

 

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