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Crisis looming in Darfur:

Tuesday, 25th May 2004

Crisis looming in Darfur: More than 1 million people at risk in West Sudan

Oxfam has today launched a public appeal for funds to avert a humanitarian disaster in Sudan. The lives of over a million people are at risk in the vast region of Darfur in Western Sudan. They have fled from the militias who have burnt their homes, destroyed their crops and stolen their cattle. Now they are struggling to survive in refugee camps or living off the generosity of local communities. But food, water, shelter and other resources are about to run out. Massive assistance is needed to avert a major humanitarian disaster.

Oxfam has worked in Sudan for over 20 years, playing an important role in both providing relief and building international support for the ceasefire between North and South Sudan. In Western Sudan, Oxfam is based in El Fasher, the administrative capital of North Darfur. Access for humanitarian agencies has been difficult, but Oxfam is able to work across much of the northern area. Oxfam partners are also working in Chad to support the estimated 200,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Darfur.

The situation is grim. One Oxfam worker reports: “Many people are collecting water from shallow wells that are contaminated with faeces. The women have to collect water five times a day as they only have one jerry can. Drinking such dirty water can have a serious impact on health – especially as 60 per cent of the displaced people are children.”

Oxfam is working with local people to upgrade water sources and dig new wells, install toilets and provide the basics for cooking and washing for around 12,000 displaced people. To help water collection, Oxfam is supporting local pot makers in supplying clay water-storage pots.

Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand: “This is a crucial time. The seasonal rains are due in the next few weeks. This will make it far more difficult to reach remote areas and increases the risk of diseases such as cholera and malaria. If the displaced people cannot get back to plant their sorghum grain crops, there will be food shortages on a massive scale.”

“New Zealanders have always responded generously to people in need. Oxfam is today launching a public appeal. Access to help people in Darfur has improved in recent days and there is now a real chance to avert a major crisis. Call 0800 600 700 to donate to the Sudan emergency appeal.”

The New Zealand government also has an important role to play. Oxfam has today written to the Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, urging him to press the Sudan government to allow more access to humanitarian agencies and to guarantee the security of the displaced Sudanese people, allowing them to return safely to their homes.



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