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Situation remains desperate in Sudan

THERE were signs that the genocidal emergency in West Sudan was being contained this week. But the situation for the 2.2 million people affected by the conflict between government-backed Arab militia and the Dar people remains grave.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday that it had begun air-drops of food to reach 70,000 people in the remoter regions of Darfur. Earlier, it announced that two dozen specialised all-terrain trucks, the first consignment of 120 such vehicles, had arrived at Post Sudan to be loaded with provisions to make the 1600 mile trip to West Darfur.

The food was destined for some of the 1.2 million people displaced by the fighting in Darfur. But much more will be needed, the WFP said. Between 13 per cent and 39 per cent of children under five in Darfur and eastern Chad are reported to be acutely malnourished. Last month, WFP food reached little more than half of those in need in Darfur.

In Britain, the Sudan Emergency Appeal raised £10 million in its first week. It is predicted that aid agencies need £27 million.

The political response has gathered speed. The UN told the government of Sudan last week to disarm the Janjaweed militias, which are responsible for the atrocities, within 30 days, or face international "measures". Britain says this could mean an arms embargo and sanctions.

One report on Sunday said that British soldiers were being put on standby. But the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who visited Khartoum last weekend, said that there should be an "African solution" to the crisis. As chairman of the African Union, which has observers on the ground in Darfur, he wants African troops to be sent.

The plight of an estimated 200,000 refugees who fled to the desert regions of eastern Chad was described by one UN official as "very extreme".

Refugees, short of water, were living in 11 refugee camps. The French army has moved troops to Chad’s border with Sudan.

The International Committee of the Red Cross distributed food to 20,000 Darfurians last month, but said that pockets of fighting made access to the people difficult.

Estimates of the number of those killed since the fighting broke out last year vary between 20,000 and 50,000. Despite the Sudanese government’s denials, there is evidence that government planes and helicopters have been used to advance the fighting. The Janjaweed is said to follow government air raids on Dar villages with slaughter, rape, looting, and cattle stealing.

Reports of the enforced repatriation of the refugees to the areas from which they fled also warned that former Janjaweed militia were being employed by the Sudanese government to guard the returning refugees.

The Sudan government has agreed to disarm the Janjaweed within 90 days. It has reacted angrily to the UN resolution for it to act within 30 days, and has called this a declaration of war.

In the south, details of the comprehensive peace agreement are still problems, even though protocols have been signed.

Many southerners believe that the Government of Sudan would not keep to the agreement. They feared that the international community, which had done so much to help force through the agreement and was needed to help guarantee its success, would now be distracted by the crisis in Darfur.

http://www.wfp.org/

http://www.icrc.org

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