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UN Envoy Says Conditions in Darfur Make Children Especially Vulnerable

A United Nations envoy to Sudan warned on Thursday that children in war-torn Darfur are facing increasing threats due to a security vacuum in the region. Noel King has more for VOA from Khartoum.

The U.N.'s special representative on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, says boys in Darfur are increasingly being recruited into armed groups, while the threat of sexual violence against girls remains a top concern, .

The U.N. envoy says that, at an official level, the Sudanese government has shown greater recognition of threats to children but said little has changed on the ground.

Coomaraswamy charged that both the Sudanese government and rebel groups in Darfur are guilty of recruiting children to fight alongside adults.

She said, "Independent monitors have pointed to us through verified data that child recruitment is increasing in Darfur and that all parties to the conflict engage in child recruitment."

Coomaraswamy says sexual violence against girls is also continuing in Darfur.

"Medical reports and other forms of verifiable information show that there are high rates of sexual violence," she said. "We again repeat that a security framework is absolutely necessary that is more protective of women and children."

The Darfur conflict will soon enter into its fourth year.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias, known as janjaweed, to crush a 2003 rebellion.

Rebels complained remote Darfur was neglected by Sudan's powerful central government.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have died and more than two-and-a-half million others have been displaced in Darfur and eastern Chad.