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Children To Pay Price For Belated Action In Sudan

21 July 2004

Children Will Pay The Price For Belated Action In Sudan

** Save the Children New Zealand launches emergency appeal for children of West Sudan **

Save the Children New Zealand said today it was dismayed by the breakdown of peace talks and the slow response of the western community in West Sudan, when the lives of an estimated 400,000 displaced children were at stake.

“Children will pay the ultimate price for the failure of adults to act,” said Executive Director of Save the Children New Zealand John Bowis. “Violence, malnutrition and disease are at life-threatening levels and children remain the most vulnerable group. It is crucial that concerted efforts towards achieving lasting peace in West Sudan are made now, to protect over a million lives at risk.”

Speaking from a food distribution point on the outskirts of Tawilla, North Darfur yesterday, Save the Children spokesperson Paul Hetherington said the situation for children was dire.

“About 30 percent of the children we’ve seen are malnourished and at least a third of that group are in a critical condition – they need therapeutic feeding to survive,” he said. “Many children are suffering from trauma after losing their parents through separation or death. Luckily most of these children have been taken under the wing of extended family networks.”

“Today, 70 per cent of the people here collecting food aid are women and children. Many men are trapped inside the camps, as the surrounding areas are still too insecure for them to travel. Women and children are less likely to be shot. Suddenly children have more responsibility in the household – they are sent out to collect water, firewood and food, but this takes them away from the relative safety of the camps.”

“Some people have returned to their villages to try and cultivate their lands, but in most cases they have left family members behind, so they can retreat to the camps if necessary.”

In North Darfur, lack of security was a major problem for relief work, more so than the seasonal rains, he said. “Our vehicles have been shot at and one field worker is injured. Now we are flying big Save the Children flags from the back of our vehicles as we travel.”

“Across the Sudanese border in Chad, the weather is causing more concern. Thousands of refugees there are living on pre-positioned food aid, delivered before the rains hit, which will soon run out. Roads are impassable now and the only alternative will be deliveries by helicopter.”

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1984, and has been engaged in emergency relief work from the outset of the present crisis. Save the Children New Zealand is now launching a national appeal to support the global emergency programme, which focuses on food distribution, health care, clean water and child protection.

Save the Children requests donations urgently. Please send via freephone 0800 167 168; by mail to Freepost Save the Children, PO Box 6584, Marion Square, Wellington; or donate online at www.savethechildren.org.nz

ENDS

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