Returning from a trip to Sudan with Cardinal O'Brien, Paul Chitnis, head of the Scottish International Catholic Aid Fund (SCIAF) has challenged the international community not to forget the African country which is struggling to implement a sustainable peace agreement while fighting continues in several parts of the country including Darfur. On the fiftieth anniversary of Sudan's independence, Mr Chitnis and the Cardinal met people traumatised by conflict and living in desperate poverty. They reaffirmed SCIAF's commitment to working with people in Sudan and campaigning on their behalf. After decades of civil war, the North and South of Sudan signed a comprehensive peace agreement in 2005. However on-going conflict in the Western region of Darfur has affected two million people and claimed thousands of lives. Mr Chitnis said: "Southern Sudan is unquestionably the poorest place I have ever been. Some estimates place the number of people living on less than $1 a day at more than 90%. Conflict over three decades has left millions dead and millions more homeless. Whether in southern Sudan where a peace agreement has been signed, or in the western region of Darfur where fighting continues, it is critical that the international community does not abandon the people of Sudan at this desperate time." In Darfur last week, there were renewed attacks on camps in Mershing and on the town of Golo. Around 90% of the people from Mershing's eight camps fled. They are now without shelter and water. SCIAF is working in Darfur as part of the ACT/Caritas network. The alliance is providing medicines, water, shelter and schooling to thousands of people across Darfur. During their trip Mr Chitnis and Cardinal O'Brien were able to witness the difference made by funds from Scotland. Mr Chitnis said: "We met people who told us their lives had been saved thanks to the work of SCIAF and the local organisations with which we work in Darfur. However, the ongoing attacks mean local staff have had to leave Mershing camp. If the conflict continues it will destabilise the rest of the country and undermine the hard won comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). The African Union peace-keeping force is too small and under-resourced. It must also act in a more robust way to prevent violence and protect vulnerable communities." "I promised the people that I would challenge our elected representatives to place Sudan and, in particular, the situation in Darfur at the top of the international agenda. To this end, I will be briefing MPs at Westminster and MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on the need to ensure aid commitments are met and an adequate peace keeping force is maintained in the region."
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