Sudan getting worse: UN

Pointing to a “nightmare” for residents in the warring region, the UN’s humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, in particular targeted Sudan’s main trading partners, China, India, Pakistan and Malaysia, and Arab countries.

“My appeal … to those countries is to help us, because we’re desperate here,” Mr Egeland told journalists, amid mounting efforts to persuade Sudan to accept a UN force.

The planned UN force “should be pushed by Asian governments, by African governments by Arab governments, by Islamic countries,” he said.

“Those who have helped us so far have not been able to change the situation, so you help us and describe your way out of a situation which is gradually worse and worse,” Mr Egeland said.

At least 200,000 people have died from fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million have fled their homes in Darfur since fighting began between local rebels and pro-government militia in February 2003.

The cash-strapped African Union has a force, known as AMIS, on the ground in the region but it is hampered by a limited mandate and shortages of troops, transportation and money.

However Sudan has refused repeated calls to transfer the mission to the United Nations despite UN Security Council resolutions authorizing a force.

Nigerian call

The humanitarian chief’s comments come a day after Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo urged Sudan to accept such a UN force, becoming the first African leader to use the word “genocide” to describe the situation there.

Mr Obasanjo said the African Union mission must be handed over to the United Nations but retain its African character.

“It is not in the interest of Sudan, nor in the interest of Africa nor indeed in the interest of the world for us all to stand by and see genocide being developed in Darfur,” he said.

The United States and some relief agencies have characterized the Darfur situation as “genocide” in the past, but Mr Obasanjo is believed to be the first African leader to use the word.

Situation getting worse

Mr Egeland warned that the situation in Darfur was getting worse, underlining a “dramatic increase” in massacres by militias, and abuse as well as violence caused by “a very worrying disintegration” of rebel forces.

“The nightmare we are seeing in Darfur is continuing. The problems that we have seen escalating through this year are not going away,” Mr Egeland said.

Meanwhile in Libreville on Wednesday the presidents of Sudan, Gabon, Nigeria and Senegal announced they would hold a summit on the Darfur crisis in Khartoum on October 17.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir will host Obasanjo, Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade for a “committee of the continent’s wise”.

And in the Sudanese capital the World Food Programme said food aid has reached tens of thousands of people who had been cut off in the Darfur region.

“The number of people not reached has been dropping steadily from 470,000 in July to 355,000 in August and now 224,000,” the UN food agency said.

The WFP warned, however, that the situation was dire for those who still had no access to relief and that the humanitarian disaster could be compounded by dwindling local supplies in the period preceding harvest.

“While heartened by this improvement, among the 224,000 not reached last month are 139,000 who have gone without food aid for four months,” the statement said.

“The situation is especially serious because we are in the annual ‘hunger season’ just before the harvest, when there is very little food available,” WFP representative in Sudan Kenro Oshidari said.