A global humanitarian agency called on US citizens today to immediately pressure the United Nations and world bodies to intervene more quickly and definitively to protect more than one million Africans threatened by the escalating crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Church World Service (CWS)—in a second national e-mail campaign to its constituents, on its website and through contacts with media—is urging people to write to John Danforth, the US Ambassador to the UN to take immediate action and add greater pressure on the Sudanese government to bring the violence to an end.
CWS Executive Director and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough reported that almost 500 refugees die each day in Darfur or in makeshift camps in neighboring Chad according to UN estimates. “With so many lives at risk, thirty days is far too long,” McCullough says, referring to the time for compliance allowed by a UN Security Council resolution passed last week.
Other aid agencies and human rights organizations agree, citing the region’s current rainy season as breeding ground for epidemics, and diseases already showing signs of manifesting.
According to recent reports, violent Arab Janjaweed militias, reportedly backed by the Sudan government, are blamed for the deaths of up to 50,000 black African villagers in Darfur. An estimated 1.2 million people have fled their homes and are now in makeshift camps elsewhere in the region or in neighboring Chad. Despite claims by the Sudan government that it is disarming the militia, the latest reports from Darfur indicate continued, if not increasing, attacks on villagers.
Darfur’s heightened violence, declared genocide by the US Congress last Friday, prompted the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that threatens to impose sanctions on Sudan in 30 days if its government does not take action to disarm, apprehend, and prosecute the Janjaweed – and to provide access by aid agencies seeking to supply food, drinking water, and medical supplies to an estimated 300,000 displaced people facing imminent starvation.
“The longer the international community waits, the longer violence and atrocities against civilians will occur,” says CWS’s McCullough.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are approximately 10,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kubum alone and about 2,400 in Um Labassa.
Since July, CWS has been assisting in providing food, medicines, access to clean water, agricultural inputs and tools, and trauma care to 500,000 of the most vulnerable people in the Darfur region. The program, to run over the next 18 months, includes a supplemental feeding program for 50,000 affected children.
Early in July, CWS issued a $1,750,000 fundraising appeal, launched a nationwide direct mail campaign, and increased its national advocacy efforts on behalf of those affected in Darfur.
“We’ve raised a quarter of a million dollars in about a month’s time. We’re confident we can reach the campaign goal, particularly now with greater world and media attention turned to Darfur,” reported Rick Augsburger, CWS Director of Emergency Response.
The CWS advocacy campaign urges:
-- the support of an international peacekeeping force to restore order and secure humanitarian zones to facilitate assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons
-- insistence that the government of Sudan disarm and apprehend Janjaweed militias
-- a demand that the government of Sudan provide full access to humanitarian groups to Darfur, and make all government resources available for the delivery of aid