As many as three million Sudanese people could become internally displaced within the troubled Darfur region by the end of this year unless the warring parties reach a peace agreement and aid agencies are granted full access so they carry out their work, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today.
Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, briefing journalists in Geneva on a meeting of the UN's humanitarian coordinators in crisis areas, warned that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) keeps rising as attacks against civilians continue and the rape and abuse of women becomes more frequent.
More than 1.8 million IDPs now live in Darfur, a vast and impoverished region on Sudan's western flank, up from an estimated one million in May last year. Mr. Egeland said IDP levels are quickly approaching two million and could soon rise further.
Last week he called for more African Union (AU) monitors to be put in place to protect civilians from violent attacks, mostly by Janjaweed militias, which are allied to Sudanese Government forces fighting local rebel groups. Only about 2,000 AU troops are currently installed in Darfur, nearly a year after the AU and the UN agreed that many more monitors should be operating.
But Mr. Egeland said the number of deaths in Darfur is now declining and some 10,000 humanitarian workers in the region's three states have been able to improve conditions for the IDPs, who mainly live in large makeshift camps.
The Under-Secretary-General has previously described Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. But he said today the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now much worse.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) wants to conduct a mortality survey to determine accurate figures for how many civilians in Darfur have died from disease or starvation since fighting began in early 2003, he added. The most recent study, held in mid-2004, showed that an average of about 10,000 IDPs were dying each month.
Meanwhile, the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) reported that 37 cases of measles have been confirmed in West Darfur state and another eight cases in South Darfur. A supplementary immunization campaign targeting children aged between six months and 14 years has begun in Kass (South Darfur) and Kanderni (West Darfur), the two towns that have reported the most cases.