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Hunger Drives Darfur's Locals To Take Relief Food

Hunger Drives Darfur's Locals To Accept Food Relief Meant For Displaced Sudanese

United Nations agencies reported today that many residents of a town in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, driven by hunger, are taking advantage of the humanitarian crisis to accept emergency food relief meant only for internally displaced people (IDPs).

Some of the estimated 100,000 residents of Al-Junaynah, in Western Darfur, are mingling with the tens of thousands of IDPs who have set up camp near the town, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The townspeople of Al-Junaynah have exhausted their own food stocks and have also hosted IDPs for several months. Many residents have now set up makeshift shelters near the camps and loiter in them on food distribution days.

Briefing reporters in New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said aid workers find it "almost impossible" to tell the residents and the IDPs apart.

However, the World Food Programme (WFP) has managed to identify and register about 40,000 IDPs in Al-Junaynah during the past week.

Mr. Dujarric said many aid workers in Western Darfur, the most remote of the region's three states, have fallen sick because of the poor health conditions there. WFP is also having logistical problems pre-positioning food supplies for the rainy season because of a lack of staff and resources.

UN agencies estimate up to 2 million people need emergency relief in Darfur because of conflict between Sudanese Government forces, allied militias known as the Janjaweed and two rebel groups.

Two UN human rights reports have found that the Janjaweed, who are mostly Arab, have conducted numerous attacks on black African civilians, killing and raping villagers, burning homes, poisoning wells and stealing livestock.

In neighbouring Chad, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR) yesterday opened a ninth safe camp for people fleeing the violence in Darfur. The camps have been set up away from the border and the threat of raids by the Janjaweed.

UNHCR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters that convoys of refugees will be transferred to the new camp, at Oure Cassoni, on a daily basis. So far 258 people have arrived. More than 123,000 of an estimated 170,000 refugees have been housed in the nine camps.

The refugee agency is also continuing its airlift of emergency supplies to Sudanese living in eastern Chad. A flight from Denmark to the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, today is due to provide blankets, kitchen sets and pre-fabricated warehouses.

Yesterday, the UN's top humanitarian official told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that the work of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in areas such as Darfur can be measured literally in terms of life and death.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said "hundreds of thousands" of people may die in the deserts of Sudan and Chad if the international community does not provide enough relief quickly.

"We are late in Darfur because the senseless violence against civilians lasted for too long, access was blocked for too long, insecurity remains too high, and resources have been provided too late," he said.

Mr. Egeland, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, was addressing ECOSOC's annual debate on humanitarian, disaster relief and special economic assistance.

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