350 a day could die in Sudan, UN says

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The Independent Online

As many as 350 people could die daily in camps in Sudan's western Darfur region when the rainy season starts unless conditions improve dramatically, a United Nations health agency official said yesterday.

As many as 350 people could die daily in camps in Sudan's western Darfur region when the rainy season starts unless conditions improve dramatically, a United Nations health agency official said yesterday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one million of the 1.2 million of the regions' displaced ethnic Africans are staying in camps where they are dying at a rate of about 200 a day, said David Nabarro, the head of crisis operations for the WHO.

However, the figure is lower than in March, when people were dying at a rate of about 300 to 700 a day, he said.

"This may not seem like a lot but it's 20 times the normal death rate in a developing country," Dr Nabarro said. "And as the rains set in and if relief is not provided, we believe the death rate will bounce back up."

The number of deaths has fallen because of increased security, humanitarian aid, hospital access and immunisation programs, he said, estimating that 50,000 people have died in the past six months of disease.

But things will become more difficult in August and September, when the rainy season makes many parts of Darfur inaccessible, hindering the delivery of aid and turning camps into a breeding ground for infectious diseases.

UN officials say Darfur represents the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The conflict has killed up to 30,000 people and left two million in need of aid. Some 1.2 million of Darfur's 6.7 million people have been displaced and more than 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad.

Nomadic Arabs have long been in conflict with their African farming neighbours over the region's dwindling resources, particularly water and usable land. Tension exploded into violence when two African rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement - took up arms in February 2003 over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government in their struggle with Arab countrymen in Darfur.

Since then, a calamity has unfolded in Darfur as armed bands of herders, most of them Arabs, have torched village after village, killing up to 30,000 people and driving more than a million ethnic Africans from their homes, according to UN estimates. The US Agency for International Development has warned that the death toll could top 350,000 if aid does not reach two million people soon.

A ceasefire was signed on 8 April, but both sides accuse each other of violations.

¿ British charities will next week launch the Sudan Emergency Appeal to raise money for refugees in Darfur. Donations can be made through the Disasters Emergency Committee website at www.dec.org.uk, by phone on 0870 60 60 900 or by sending a cheque/postal order to made payable to: DEC Sudan Emergency, PO Box 999, London EC3.

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