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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Urges Arab Countries to Help Darfur


A goodwill ambassador for the U.N. children's agency says he plans to ask Arab countries to help those affected by the war in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

Following his two-day tour of Darfur, UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mahmoud Kabil told VOA he is traveling to Dubai to urge Arab countries to join the humanitarian effort in Darfur.

"I am going to appeal to the [United Arab] Emirates, to Qatar, to the Saudis. I am going to appeal to rich Arab countries that can, that should assume the responsibility of another Arab country in need," he explained. "We are going to coordinate with the League of the Arab States and have a meeting with the secretary-general in a couple of days."

Mr. Kabil said priorities for funding include the construction and operation of schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure.

The Egyptian movie star visited several displaced persons' camps, participated in a polio vaccination, and met with local and aid officials during his tour.

He said some Arab countries such as Qatar and Egypt are helping out with health care and other projects, but their efforts are not enough.

"We need more resources. We need more involvement - first Arab involvement, and world involvement," he said. "Most of the projects I saw there, the humanitarian projects, are done by the west. And this is why we are going to Dubai and indeed to the Arab countries to take responsibility for what is going on in an Arab country."

Mr. Kabil said people he met in the camps were generally in good health and spirits, although many children drew pictures of fires, guns, men on horses attacking villages, airplanes dropping bombs, and other war scenes. Mr. Kabil said this indicates the children are still traumatized.

One of the most difficult parts of the trip, said Mr. Kabil, was realizing that UNICEF and other aid agencies were reaching only about 25 percent of the children and their families in need.

He said aid workers were unable to help the other 75 percent because of a serious lack of resources.

The two-year-old Darfur conflict between the Sudanese government, rebel groups, and an Arab militia said to be supported by the government has killed more than 50,000 people and displaced more than one million.

The Sudanese government has been under increasing pressure from the United Nations, human rights groups, donor countries, and others to put an end to the conflict and ensure that the people of Darfur are safe and secure.

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