Sudan

Sudan: Crucial time for war-torn region

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Rains threaten to cut off vital supplies to refugee camps across Darfur, as well as increasing risk of disease to malnourished population

Millions face a "calamitous situation" within the next two months as the rainy season starts in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, according to CAFOD experts.

In the coming months, up to 3.5 million people (according to the UN) will be dependent on food aid across the region, many living in remote areas. This is a 25% increase of the numbers needing food aid this time last year.

"Darfur is facing a calamitous situation," said Antony Mahony, humanitarian officer at CAFOD. "Not enough food is in place yet to last the rainy season and even more people will be in need of food aid than this time last year.

"People are already badly weakened by months living in extremely basic conditions in the camps and food shortages could prove fatal for many over the coming months.

"As the warring parties sit down for renewed peace talks at the end of the week, we beg them to remember that thousands of lives are at stake. The threat of violence prevents people returning home so they are reliant on food aid arriving in the camps."

Roads become impassable

Banditry is a major problem along many of the main distribution routes especially in South Darfur. Truck drivers have been killed and several lorries have gone missing, meaning that the food supply for camps is badly disrupted.

Now that the rainy season has started, aid agencies face an uphill struggle to make sure enough food is in place in the camps before roads in the area become impassable. Many major distribution routes are swept away in the rainy season meaning that journeys that previously took hours, can take several days, leaving camps stranded without food.

The rainy season also brings with it the increased risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, which can prove fatal to children weakened by hunger.

The ACT/Caritas programme in Darfur, of which CAFOD is a leading member, has just opened a supplementary feeding station in the El Dhein area, giving food to children under 5, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.

One-third of children malnourished

There they have found that nearly one in three children are malnourished. In the coming months this figure is likely to increase. In total across South Darfur the team is treating around 25,000 malnourished children and adults.

Insecurity is the number one problem facing the people of Darfur. Whilst areas patrolled by African Union forces are now calmer, there are not enough soldiers to cover the whole of Darfur -- an area the size of France.

Darfur needs at least double the current number of peacekeepers and for the peace process to achieve concrete results as soon as possible.

For further information please contact Fiona Callister on fcallister@cafod.org.uk or 020 7326 5558 or 07867 908720