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UN Appeals for Aid for Sudan War Victims - 2003-11-10

The United Nations is calling for nearly $23 million to help people suffering in a little-known war in western Sudan.

For about a year, a rebel group called the Sudan Liberation Army has been battling an Arab militia called Janjawid as well as government troops in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

The Janjawid have been pushing local farming communities off their land in a bid to have access to the resources. The government, which now has a ceasefire with the SLA rebels, has denied backing the Arab militia and says it wants to bring them under control.

Darfur is a poor area that analysts say has long been neglected by the central government. The United Nations estimates that up to 600,000 people have been displaced by the conflict since February.

At the office of the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, spokesman Ben Parker said the Darfur war is turning out to be Sudan's worst humanitarian crisis in the past five years, causing much suffering to the local population. "They are displaced from their homes and have no means of bringing food to the table. They need some temporary shelter, places to live in the meantime. They need access to clean water and sanitation to avoid the spread of disease," he said.

Mr. Parker says, to that end, the United Nations is launching a $22.8 million initiative to pay for food, shelter materials, water supplies, sanitation equipment, education programs, health care and other necessary supplies.

He says at least four U.N. agencies, such as the World Food Program and UNICEF, will be involved in distributing the aid.

Mr. Parker says it is difficult for aid workers to get travel documents to go to the area. And he says that despite the two-month-old cease-fire between the rebels and the government, Darfur is not safe for travelers.