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Sudan crisis: Catholic agencies issue urgent call for action

 Vulnerable thousands driven from their homes in the Darfur region of the Sudan by the civil war need immediate aid and protection. Caritas Internationalis and its Catholic sister international network CIDSE have issued a joint statement voicing their concern over the urgent humanitarian situation. The Catholic Aid Agency CAFOD is a member of both networks which together represent 173 development and social services agencies working in over 200 countries. In the statement Caritas and CIDSE members call for all warring parties in the troubled region of Darfur to ensure the protection of civilians; to allow civilians access to humanitarian aid and to work towards a just and lasting peace. It is estimated by the United Nations that around 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes by the inter-ethnic conflict in Darfur and are now in great need of humanitarian assistance. The rainy season has already started in the some parts of region which will soon render many roads impassable. Those who have fled their homes have no means of providing their families with food and so will be reliant on humanitarian assistance until they are able to return to their land. To date, the limited access for humanitarian aid to the region has not allowed an effective response to the escalating needs of the people of Darfur. Unless such access is granted immediately and the international community responds quickly to meet need in the region, there is a serious risk of widespread loss of life from hunger and disease. CAFOD partners are currently the only organisations working throughout Southern Darfur with internally displaced people. CAFOD, through its Sudanese partners, is providing emergency assistance for 125,000 homeless people living in temporary camps or in the surrounding area. Villagers have been forced to flee their homes by inter-ethnic fighting and looting by the Janjaweed militia. CAFOD partners report that the widespread destruction mirrors that in other areas of the region with systematic burning of villages, killing and raping of women. CAFOD's Sudan Programme Officer Rob Rees, who has recently returned from Sudan, said: "The situation in Darfur is already a crisis and unless urgent action is taken we will be facing a humanitarian disaster. Caritas and CIDSE have joined forces in the hope that our voice will join with others in the international community to assist the people of Darfur. "No effective assistance can be delivered unless all warring parties ensure both the protection of civilians and safe access for humanitarian aid. " CAFOD has worked with partners in Sudan for 30 years, in both emergency response work and long term development projects.