Unless the warring parties of Darfur reach a peace agreement by tonight, hundreds of thousands of lives will be needlessly put at risk, says CAFOD. The deadline for reaching agreement fixed by the African Union mediators was extended from Sunday until midnight on Tuesday (2 May), following pressure from the United States. Talks have been continuing for nearly two years in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. If the talks fail once again then the future of the two million people forced from their homes by the conflict in the Sudanese region will be put at risk. Already the United Nations World Food Programme has halved rations in Darfur due to lack of funds and money is also running short for many of the aid agencies working in the region. Without the support of the humanitarian community, many lives in the region could be at risk. CAFOD is a leading member of a programme in Darfur which helps around 500,000 people providing food, health care, clean water and sanitation. This year it is expected that the programme will have to make serious cuts in the absence of new funding for Darfur. Unless the peace talks succeed, then it is highly likely that the displaced population will need high levels of support well into 2007. CAFOD's Director of International Programmes, Lesley-Anne Knight said: "The one thing that the people of Darfur need above all else is peace. Unless peace is restored to Darfur, people will not be able to return home, they will not be able to support their families and they will continue to be forced to depend on assistance from aid agencies such as CAFOD. "With funding to support the humanitarian effort in Darfur dwindling, CAFOD, along with other major aid agencies, now faces the prospect of having to make difficult decisions about where to make cuts in our programme. Although we will try and mitigate the effects of those cuts as much as possible, it is unavoidable that they affect people on the ground who are in desperate need of support. "If peace is not restored and the level of funding available further drops, then CAFOD, together with other major aid agencies, will be forced to consider the future shape of its humanitarian programme. Further lives could be needlessly lost."
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