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US Delegation Says Darfur Refugees Experiencing Slow-motion Genocide

A delegation of U.S. advocates for Darfur says Friday that conditions in refugee camps in Sudan and Chad are appalling and that the population in Darfur continues to suffer a genocide by attrition in those camps. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

The advocates recently returned from Chad where they saw first-hand what they called the deplorable condition of refugees suffering from sickness, malnutrition, trauma and inadequate supplies. They say the genocide is continuing in slow motion.

Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, an international development organization, says that by refusing to allow international peacekeepers into Darfur and not abiding to ceasefire commitments, the Sudanese government is still perpetuating the genocide.

The refugees cannot go home and she says this keeps them in the camps where they are suffering. She says that in her conversations with refugees, they asked her to take a message back to the United States. "You have to go back and tell our story and be sure that the rebel groups that are meeting get together, that the rebel groups sit down with the government, that the western powers do whatever they can to bring a peacekeeping force, and then peace, so that we can go back home," she said.

Messinger, a former president of New York's City Council, says the refugees feel abandoned and worry that talks between Sudan and western nations will not address their issues. She says the camps are becoming increasingly permanent and lack necessary resources. "They are faced with a crisis of unknown proportions, unknown length. They are trying to provide with inadequate dollars and they are really faced with making decisions on a daily basis. How long are people going to be here?," she said.

American actress Mia Farrow traveled with the group in her role as a United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, Goodwill Ambassador. Farrow, who has actively campaigned on behalf of refugees in Darfur, says it is unacceptable that people who managed to flee deadly attacks might die in camps set up to save lives. She says security conditions are unsafe and the refugees and aid workers are at risk everyday. "We became part of the picture when our vehicle was hijacked by armed men who entered the camp when we left at curfew. When the aid workers leave, what happens to the women and children? And it is overwhelmingly women and children in the camps," she said.

The advocates spoke at a media conference in New York aimed at calling attention to the American people about the camps' conditions. They say the Darfur refugees will die a protracted death if the international community does not act swiftly and vigorously.