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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Sudan: 'world's worst humanitarian disaster'
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¬†Untold thousands of lives will be lost in the Darfur region of Sudan unless civilians are protected from the brutal Janjaweed militia and inter-ethnic fighting, says CAFOD partner Nils Cartensen who has just returned from the area. An estimated 1.2 million people in the region have been forced out of their homes by conflict and a brutal campaign of looting, rape and killing by the Janjaweed militia. Experienced aid worker Mr Cartensen was shocked by the deteriorating situation that he witnessed during his recent assessment mission for the Catholic Aid agency and its partners. CAFOD has launched an appeal to fund work to provide help for around 125,000 displaced people in South Darfur and its team of five will be working with partners. "All the signs are pointing in the wrong direction right now. You can't help getting the sense that it is going to get worse before it can get better" said Cartensen on his return. "Many, many displaced people are trapped. They may have escaped the Janjaweed attacks on their homes but they are now trapped in concentration camp-like centres and they are cut off from doing anything. "After fleeing their homes they gather in compounds with no help or support offered. When they venture out from these compounds, just a few hundred metres away from the safety of the group, they risk being snatched by the Janjaweed. Every day women are being raped as they go out to collect firewood and the men claim that they cannot protect the women because then they will be abducted and killed." Those who have fled their homes have little or no access to food, clean water, shelter or other humanitarian aid. But Mr Cartensen reports that even the simple act of providing those in need with food can increase their risk of attack from Janjaweed: "You can't just give large quantities of food to people here even if you had it because they feel that makes them a target. "In one compound I visited, people were crammed into a school, fifty to a classroom sleeping back to back. I saw several serious malnutrition cases where I knew that if I came back in a couple of days it would be too late. I saw one fifteen month old girl who was still alive but almost translucent she was so thin. Her skin was stretched tight over her cheekbones. She had been ill for a month and hadn't eaten for 10 days." CAFOD is extremely concerned that the civilian population has little protection from Janjaweed attacks. CAFOD reiterates that under the Geneva Conventions all people have a right to protection, to be free from attack, coercion, and forced displacement. CAFOD calls on the Sudanese authorities and the international community to work together to create a secure environment where, should they choose, people can return to their homes and land in safety and dignity. In around one month many affected areas will be cut off as the rainy season washes away roads and relief supplies lorries will be unable to reach many of those in need. Rains have already begun to fall in the south of the country. CAFOD believes that the only way that a humanitarian response can be effective is by ensuring the protection of the civilian population and by bringing in international monitors to ensure that those receiving aid are not attacked again. The United Nations has described the situation in Darfur as "the world's worst humanitarian disaster" and recently estimated that up to one million lives could be lost unless help arrives soon. It has described the situation as a tragedy of human rights and said that the next 90 days will make the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of people. CAFOD has launched an appeal to help the people of Darfur. To make a donation please call 0500 858885 or visit the CAFOD website on CAFOD has already pledged £200,000 to humanitarian aid in Darfur.
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