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Sudan: UN Undertakes Search For Missing Staff

Sudan: UN Undertakes Search For Missing Staff And Aid Workers In Darfur

United Nations officials are conducting a search-and-rescue operation in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan to find three UN humanitarian workers and five staff from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who have not been heard from since Saturday.

The last radio contact with the three local workers for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the five members of the Sudanese Red Crescent was at about 3 p.m. on Saturday near the town of Shangel Tubai, about 30 kilometres south of the North Darfur provincial capital of El Fasher, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters today.

Mr. Dujarric said the UN, which is being supported by the Sudanese Government in its efforts, is using a helicopter to try to locate the missing workers. It has also set up a crisis management centre in El Fasher.

He said that Khartoum and the two Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have assured the UN that they will make every effort to obtain information on the whereabouts of the missing workers.

UN agencies and NGOs have been operating in Darfur and neighbouring Chad since last year to try to alleviate what has been described as the world's worst current humanitarian crisis. About 1.2 million people are internally displaced in Darfur and another 200,000 have fled to Chad because of frequent attacks by militias, as well as fighting between Khartoum and the SLA and JEM.

Meanwhile, in Abuja, Nigeria, talks aimed at resolving the political dispute between the Sudanese Government and the rebels are continuing, with today's discussion focusing on humanitarian issues.

Mr. Dujarric said the African Union (AU), supported by the UN, has presented the parties to the talks with a detailed draft paper assessing the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also released an update showing that the number of suspected hepatitis E cases in Darfur and Chad has risen to nearly 3,400, with at least 71 deaths. The agency said some of the cases at a refugee camp in Chad could be linked to acute jaundice instead.

WHO said the inhabitants of Darfur and eastern Chad, where the refugees are located, still face the risk of malnutrition, malaria, measles, meningitis, diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections and other ailments.

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