Aid agencies in cash plea to keep Darfur mission running

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Eight aid agencies joined forces yesterday in a plea for more international help for the Darfur region of Sudan.

As a donors' conference started in Brussels, the agencies warned that the African Union, which is leading relief efforts for the homeless and starving in the face of what has been described by the US as genocide, is chronically under-funded and grinding to a halt.

With barely enough cash to pay aid workers' salaries until the end of this month, the African Union needs £146m to fund its efforts for the rest of the year. "This lack of funding means patrols in and around camps are impossible ... and we are seeing people attacked, killed or raped as a result," said Denis Caillaux, secretary general of Care International.

"The current scenario is a recipe for disaster," said Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam Great Britain. "Donor governments must now put their hands in their pockets and fully fund the African Union force."

Oxfam joined Care International, CAFOD, Christian Aid International, Concern Worldwide, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief and Tearfund in a joint appeal to donors.

"This is an international problem, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world," said Haroun Atallah, chief executive of Islamic Relief. "All rich countries must step up their support urgently if the disaster of Darfur isn't to turn into an even worse catastrophe."