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International Relief Agency Says Food Crisis Persists in Darfur - 2004-07-26


The international medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) says the food crisis in Sudan's Darfur region continues, despite more aid flowing in.

The international president of Doctors Without Borders says famine and epidemics pose a grave threat to more than one million people displaced by civil war in Darfur.

The official, Dr. Rowan Gillies, told a London news conference he found a deteriorating situation during a month-long tour he just finished of the region in western Sudan.

He said the gravest problem is a lack of food, despite efforts of the World Food Program.

"Probably about 50 percent of the requirements for the population will get to them in July. This is a population who have had very little food in the last six months at least," Dr. Gillies said.

Dr. Gillies describes the sanitary conditions in the camps he visited as appalling. Clean water is scarce and children are dying of diarrhea. He says he fears outbreaks of cholera and other epidemics.

Dr. Gillies says the Sudanese government is relaxing restrictions that have impeded aid, and the world community must respond.

"The urgency of response is still not adequate," he said. "The scale of the response is definitely not adequate. There are many, many more agencies on the ground. A lot of the restrictions with respect to administration and so in Khartoum have been relieved. So there are more and more non-government organizations on the ground, able to start programs. But we would certainly urge them to start as soon as possible, because day in and day out, these people are at huge risk."

In another development, Britain continues to weigh the possibility of sending troops to support humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur. The British army says 5,000 soldiers could be mobilized, if needed.

Sudan has warned against military intervention, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has said it is too soon to make such a decision. Mr. Blair's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, plans to travel to Sudan next month for a first-hand look at the crisis.

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