Aid agency says Straw must increase pressure on Sudan

 As the humanitarian crisis in Darfur deepens, CAFOD is calling on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to increase pressure on Sudan to end the fighting. The agency says the visit by the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Darfur comes at a critical time. The UK is the biggest cash donor to Sudan. CAFOD says Straw must use British influence on the Sudanese government and all warring parties to secure humanitarian access, increase protection of civilians, and encourage progress in the peace talks. CAFOD director Chris Bain said: "Hunger and sickness do not wait for political solutions. People are living in desperate conditions. Without improved security and increased access, the situation will get even worse. Jack Straw can play a vital role in highlighting the crisis and in encouraging all sides in the conflict to commit to peace negotiations. "CAFOD is doing all it can to help. The situation is grave. It is likely to get even worse before it gets better. The response of the Catholic community in England and Wales has been fantastic, but the need is still great." The first of two more planes full of vital supplies sent by CAFOD partners has now arrived in Nyala, southern Darfur. The joint ACT/Caritas airlift contains plastic sheeting, water containers and other relief items. The recently arrived sheeting will provide 30,000 people with adequate shelter. Heavy rains are making life difficult for people in Darfur who have been forced from their homes. They are vulnerable, cold and threatened by disease. Children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. The ACT/Caritas team says the job of getting aid through is increasingly difficult. "We are seeing more and more people arrive in camps. We must constantly scale up our activities. Some of the areas we are working in are hardly accessible by road now. One recent journey to a camp that should take half a day instead took four, said Mayen Wol Jong, ACT/Caritas head of Nyala office. The team is currently distributing plastic sheeting and household items in El Muhajeria, an area where few organisations work. CAFOD partner Sudan Council of Churches is organising the distribution together with ACT/Caritas.

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