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Bradford and MU to aid mothers in Darfur

THE DIOCESE of Bradford has launched a joint project with the Mothers’ Union (MU) to help the relief effort in the Darfur area of Sudan. Bradford is linked with four dioceses of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) in northern Sudan, including El Obeid, which covers Darfur. More than one million people have fled their homes and 50,000 have been killed in Darfur since the fighting began last year.

The ECS relief agency, SUDRA, made a direct appeal to both Bradford and the MU to provide emergency aid for expectant and nursing mothers in the Displaced Persons Area, Kass, in Darfur. The diocese and the worldwide MU have pledged to raise at least £30,000 to fund one co-ordinator and support five volunteers for two months. They will also provide basic equipment for expectant and nursing mothers. The project will be implemented by El Obeid diocese.

The situation in Kass is described as "extremely gross" in a needs-assessment survey conducted by SUDRA last month. There are an estimated 40,000 displaced persons there, who have been located in ten schools. At least 70 people occupy each classroom, where they sleep. More than three-quarters of the displaced women in Kass have lost their husbands.

"Health-wise the situation is dangerous, particularly for the children. It means they are exposed to any sickness," said the SUDRA report.

This week, UN aid officials in Darfur warned of severe outbreaks of disease in refugee camps after outbreaks of malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

The African Union is planning to send a peacekeeping force to the region, but the Sudanese government is resisting this. Terms were being discussed at the beginning of the week, when the government initially agreed to allow 300 African Union troops, but only to protect ceasefire monitors.

On Tuesday, the UN announced that two rebel groups in the Darfur region had agreed to allow the vaccination of 500,000 children against polio and measles. Until now, UN agencies have been unable to reach the children, who are behind rebel lines.

The UN has demanded that the Sudanese government must disarm the Arab Janjaweed militia, who have been driving out black Africans since disputes began last year over land and water supplies. The government, which has been given until the end of August before it faces international action, has said it needs more time.

Last month, the Disasters Emergency Committee, which includes several Christian relief agencies, launched a £15-million appeal to respond to the crisis.;;

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