Refugee Conditions in Darfur Worsening, CWS Urges for More Action

As violence continues against the people of Darfur, Sudan, global humanitarian agency Church World Service is urging for intervention.
( [email protected] ) Sep 02, 2004 10:53 AM EDT

Despite massive food and relief aid efforts currently underway by humanitarian and relief agencies, more people in the Darfur region of Sudan are at risk of imminent starvation and death from disease, according to reports. Meanwhile, as thousands of people remain in makeshift camps, with unconfirmed numbers of new arrivals seeking refuge in the area, violence continues against the people of Darfur, in what the United Nations has labeled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

An initial contingent of 150 African Union troops from Rwanda arrived in Darfur earlier this week to serve as protection for AU ceasefire monitors who are assessing the situation in Darfure. Another 150 Nigerian troops left for the region on Monday.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir made it clear last week that no additional AU troops were welcome in Sudan, beyond the number his government initially agreed to with the AU concerning protection of its ceasefire monitors.

However, that is not enough, according to Rev. John L. McCullogh, Executive Director and CEO of the global humanitarian agency, Church World Service (CWS).

“Security in Darfur is by no means accomplished,” McCullough said.

Speaking from Church World Service’s New York headquarters, McCullough urged, “It is also necessary for African Union troops to help provide a secure humanitarian corridor for the ongoing delivery of assistance to the thousands of refugees and displaced people in the region.

“We therefore need to push the government of Sudan to accept an expanded role and mission of these African Union troops.”

Over the past thirty days the Sudanese government employed what CWS’s McCullough describes as “a strategy of lukewarm compliance to stall the international community, while pursuing its goal of destroying as many of the black African populations of Darfur as possible.

“Calls for Sudan to cease military support, disarm and apprehend Janjaweed militias conducting campaigns of terror against the people of Darfur have gone mostly unheeded,” McCullough said.

UN reports said Tuesday that conditions are worsening for Darfuri refugees. Violence in Darfur is responsible for almost 50,000 deaths, and according to UN estimates, almost 500 refugees perish daily.

CWS Associate Director of International Emergency Response Programs Donna J. Derr reports that CWS partners in Darfur, Action by Churches Together, Caritas International, and Norwegian Church Aid, are increasing humanitarian efforts in areas outside Nyala.

Thousands of people remain in makeshift camps, with unconfirmed numbers of new arrivals seeking refuge in the area, says Derr.

ACT/Caritas operational teams have heard reports about renewed fighting in the area -- reports that have been confirmed by other sources. According to the reports, some civilians have been killed.

In places like Mujaheria, the numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have doubled lately, says Derr.

The World Food Program (WFP) and the International Red Cross are currently providing massive food and relief aid efforts, however more people are still at risk of imminent starvation and death from disease, because of ongoing violence, the region’s rainy season, and limited access to the region by humanitarian agencies.

Monday was the deadline set by the United Nations for the government of Sudan to disarm and apprehend the Janjaweed militias blamed with the killing, rapes, atrocities, village burnings, and massive displacement of more than 1.2 million primarily black African people in Darfur – or, according to the UN demand, Sudan may face sanctions.

As violence continues against the people of Darfur, CWS is urging Americans to contact U.S. UN Ambassador John Danforth and Secretary of State Colin Powell and demand that they:

- Apply pressure to the president of Sudan to accept African Union (AU) troops as peacekeepers in Darfur

- Urge the government of Sudan to expand the mandate of African Union troops to include protection of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as protection of humanitarian zones to ensure passage of desperately needed food and relief supplies

- Ensure that the U.S. provide an additional $90 million in assistance for the people of Darfur, deemed an appropriate and proportionate contribution to help fund the shortfall of the United Nations appeal for Darfur

UN special envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk is scheduled to brief the Security Council on his findings in Darfur today, Thursday, Sept. 2.