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Darfur: Displaced remain traumatized from rape

Darfur’s displaced remain traumatized and at risk of rape, harassment – UN official

The displaced inhabitants of the Sudanese region of Darfur are traumatized and humiliated, and remain at constant risk of rape, violence and pressure to return to their homes, a United Nations humanitarian official told reporters today after visiting the war-torn area.

Dennis McNamara, the Director of the UN's Internal Displacement Division, told a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, that rape and sexual violence against women and girls in Darfur was an immense problem.

He made his remarks on the day that the Security Council deadline arrived for the Sudanese Government to show that it is giving Darfur's vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) better protection and it is disarming the militias accused of attacking civilians.

This Thursday, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, will brief the Security Council on his findings of whether Khartoum is making progress in its pledges. Tonight he is expected to present his report on the issue to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In Nairobi, Mr. McNamara said there was a chronic lack of protection for Darfur's estimated 1.2 million IDPs. He said the Sudanese Government was continuing to pressure the IDPs to leave their makeshift camps and return to the homes they fled because of earlier attacks by the notorious Janjaweed militias.

Mr. McNamara said Khartoum's harassment was still occurring despite the efforts of officials from the UN, the African Union (AU) and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Darfur - a vast, impoverished region in Sudan's remote west - to stop it.

Women are frequently attacked and sexually assaulted as they leave IDP camps to collect firewood, and they say their attackers are Janjaweed, Mr. McNamara added.

Many women are unable to receive hospital treatment for their injuries because they do not report the rapes to police out of shame and fear.

In other developments on Sudan:

• Political negotiations, which have resumed in Abuja, Nigeria, between Khartoum and the two Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), will continue for the rest of the week. The talks will focus on humanitarian concerns, security, political issues, and social and economic affairs.

• The Head of Operations for the Sudan situation for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Jean-Marie Fakhouri, said the estimated 200,000 Darfur refugees living in neighbouring Chad cannot return home until security improves. He warned that more Sudanese could flee across the border.

• The Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which are holding talks to end their 21-year civil war in Sudan's south, have signed a UN-organized agreement on dealing with the region's vast amount of land mines.

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