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US Repeats Warning 300,000 People Could Die in Darfur - 2004-10-04

Senior U.S. officials have repeated their earlier warning that up to 300,000 people in Sudan's western Darfur province could die by the end of the year, if they do not get more international assistance. The officials say the crisis in conflict-ridden Darfur has not yet peaked.

The U.S. officials base this grim estimate upon studies carried out by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta in April. They say the study found up to 300,000 people in camps for internally displaced people could die by the end of the year, if aid agencies are unable to bring in needed assistance.

U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Assistant Administrator William Garvelink says recent studies by the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders confirm these projections. They say mortality rates already are climbing.

"We have several-hundred thousand people, who are severely malnourished, who have been through a very rough time in the past year," he said. "Food will run out from the harvest before the end of the year because it is so little. And, we are going to see what you might want to call a tipping point in December, January and February, where the mortality rates are going to go up very high. And, it will be very hard for the international community to do anything to reduce those mortality rates in the short term."

Mr. Garvelink says women and children who have become severely weakened by months of confinement in the camps will be the ones to die first.

The United States is the biggest contributor to the crisis in Darfur and Chad. This year it has given nearly $300 million for humanitarian assistance.

At the opening of the U.N. Refugee Conference, the United States pledged another $600,000 dollars to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Garvelink says the money will be used to increase U.N. humanitarian monitoring teams in Darfur from eight to 16.

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights and her monitoring teams in Darfur are an indispensable instrument for holding the government of Sudan and all armed groups accountable for stopping the widespread violence against civilians in Darfur," he said.

Assistant Secretary of State for Refugee Affairs Arthur Dewey has just returned from a visit to Darfur and Chad, where nearly 200,000 Sudanese refugees have fled. He warns of another exodus of refugees from Darfur, if the violence there continues.

"Our estimate is that as many as 100,000 could be making up their minds as to whether conditions are so bad in Darfur that they would need to protect themselves and their families by coming across the border into Chad," said Mr. Dewey.

Mr. Dewey says an influx of thousands of new arrivals from Darfur would be a huge burden upon aid agencies and their over-stretched budgets.