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Darfur Death Rates Exceed Crisis Threshold

Sudan: UN Survey Shows Darfur Death Rates Exceed Figures For Humanitarian Crisis

More than 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are dying every day in North and West Darfur in Sudan because of diseases caused by the crowded, unhygienic conditions in camps there or because of violent attacks, according to a survey released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

The agency said the survey's results surpass the accepted threshold for a humanitarian crisis - usually measured at one death per 10,000 people per day - in two of the three regions of Darfur, a vast, impoverished section of western Sudan roughly the size of France that has been beset by conflict and massive displacement since early last year.

In West Darfur, the crude mortality rate is 2.9 deaths per 10,000 people, while in North Darfur the rate is 1.5 deaths. South Darfur was not measured because of security problems there, and the survey included 1,500 households and covered the period from mid-June to mid-August.

The figures indicate that an average of 144 IDPs are dying each day in West Darfur and another 57 in North Darfur, between three and six times the expected rate.

WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said many of the deaths in Darfur are caused by diseases that are easily preventable, such as diarrhoea, which is responsible for three-quarters of deaths of children aged below five.

"This survey confirms what the humanitarian community has suspected for some weeks…Increased and better-focused action is now vital," he said, adding that more aid is required to alleviate the suffering.

UN agencies, with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have accelerated the distribution of relief services to Darfur because of the high death rates and the continuing problems faced by IDPs.

Since last month, about 700,000 of the estimated 1.2 million IDPs across Darfur have access to clean water, while 30,000 latrines have been built and 127 health centres have been set up to help as many as 950,000 people. There have also been specific vaccination campaigns targeting diseases such as measles.

The humanitarian crisis engulfing Darfur began last year after civilians began fleeing their home villages because of attacks by militias allied to the Sudanese Government, which is fighting two rebel groups. About 200,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad.

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