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Worsening Conditions In Darfur Prompt Alarm

Worsening Conditions In Darfur Prompt Alarm From Unicef Chief

New York, Sep 15 2006 7:00PM

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today joined her voice to the growing chorus of UN officials expressing alarm about the deteriorating situation in the strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman in a press statement condemned the “senseless loss of life” in Darfur and called on all sides in the conflict to protect families and children.

“It is estimated that more than 400,000 people have lost their lives in the continuing conflict. About 1.9 million people have been displaced and nearly 3 million people depend on international aid for food, shelter and basic health,” she noted.

Ms. Veneman said the increasing violence made it harder for humanitarian workers to reach those in need, causing a sharp rise in acute malnutrition rates as a result.

“Sexual violence against women and children is widespread and people yearn for a place where they can feel safe,” she added.

Ms. Veneman’s call comes amid mounting concern about the fate of Darfur’s civilians after the end of the month, when African Union (AU) soldiers are slated to leave the region.

Last month the Security Council voted to deploy more than 17,000 UN peacekeepers to take over from the AU, but the Sudanese Government has been adamant that it is opposed to blue helmets in Darfur.

This week Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Darfur is headed for a disaster unless Khartoum changes its mind, and Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland have voiced similar concerns in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and actor George Clooney briefed the Security Council, urging them to take “real and effective measures” to ensure to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Ends

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