SUDAN WATCH: Darfur facing food crisis 'on a scale never seen before'

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Darfur facing food crisis 'on a scale never seen before'

Does anyone know what is really going on with the U.N.'s World Food Program and US Aid? I've yet to see a report in mainstream media about the aid situation and how it works.

The U.S. and U.K. have given hundreds of millions of dollars for Darfur. Other countries around the world have given generously. I know I have banged on about this for nearly six months now.

Do the aid agencies use ploys every two months to fundraise? Whenever news breaks through on how bad the situation is in Darfur, it seems to coincide with fundraising initiatives by aid agencies from around the world - including the U.N.

Even the African Union are saying the reason for not sending the 300 Rwandan troops to Darfur last weekend was due to lack of funding. The only explanation I can think of is that countries are saying to the media they are doing this, that and the other, but in reality they are not paying their pledges on time.

And why is the U.S. who make a big deal about declaring genocide in Darfur, are being so stingy sending only two military planes to transport the AU troops into Darfur? The U.K. paid for the last batch of Nigerian troops to enter Sudan and funding their rations. Maybe the reason for the delay in AU troops getting into Darfur is that nobody is providing fast enough back up to the African Union. Who knows. The media are really doing a poor job of investigative journalism.

For all the press releases that are issued out of the U.N. and Washington, I really cannot understand the lack of hard news regarding the desperate shortage of food - and why 85% of those in the camps who are dying, are losing their lives because of food shortages and disease.

It will be interesting to see what comes of the talks in Libya between Col Gadaffi and the Darfur rebel groups. He is meeting with them separately for them to air their views. More later. Peace talks are key to getting the violence stopped and aid flowing. Aid workers need unimpeded access to all areas. Aid trucks and food are in danger of being attacked and looted. More on this later.

Today, the Scotsman reports that Darfur is facing an "unprecedented food crisis" worse than the famines of recent decades, the Red Cross said yesterday. Here is an excerpt from the report:

The warning was based on a study of food supplies in 20 selected villages across the huge region, where villagers - those who have not taken refuge in camps - reported they had more trouble coping than in earlier severe droughts.

"Most rural communities in north, west and south Darfur are facing an unprecedented food crisis, worse even than the famines they faced in the Eighties and Nineties," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement. "Insecurity is the root cause of the collapse of agriculture and trade in Darfur," it added.

A spate of incidents over the past ten days near the West Darfur capital of El Geneina highlighted dangers for the displaced and aid agencies, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said yesterday.

An UNHCR team was stopped at gunpoint by police last week, days after two staff of Save the Children were killed by an anti-tank mine in North Darfur, spokesman Ron Redmond said.

"This gives some indication of the problems we are facing in just trying to provide some kind of protection presence in Darfur. We feel the more international staff on the ground who can go to these places - the more eyes and ears from the international community - the better for everybody," he said.

Mustafa Osman Ismail, the Sudanese foreign minister, said talks between Darfur tribal leaders, which include rebel group representatives, were due to begin in Libya yesterday to try to help restore stability in the troubled region.

US has made two military transport planes available to aid African peacekeeping forces heading for Sudan.

The planes will help take in fresh troops, part of a 4,500-soldier contingent to be deployed to Darfur by the African Union by the end of next month.

http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1217492004

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