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Annan witnesses plight of Darfur’s children

© UNICEF/2004/Elder
Displaced family at Mersheng, Darfur
DARFUR, 2 July 2004 – UN Secretary General Kofi Annan travelled to Darfur today to see at first-hand conditions for the more than one million people who have been displaced by months of militia attacks.  More than half of the displaced people are children.  The UN describes the Darfur conflict  as “today’s worst humanitarian disaster.”

Many families tell consistent stories of attacks by Janjaweed militia. “They killed my father when they attacked our village. We ran to the field but they found us there and looted all we had and killed my three-year-old sister,” said a twelve-year-old girl in a camp for displaced people in South Darfur. In a village in West Darfur a mother described another attack: “We were attacked in three ways.  They used helicopters and jet planes, then men in land cruisers, and then men on camels and horseback. Young girls about 14 years and above were taken by the Janjaweed and raped. And after they were done with them they let them go.” Meanwhile, women – who must venture further and further from camps in search of fire wood – still report attacks and rapes.

Aside from the shock and trauma of these assaults, physical survival is a major challenge for Darfur’s people. Malnutrition rates are above 20 per cent, camps are overwhelmed with new arrivals and resources are stretched to the breaking point. The beginning of the rainy season means people are without suitable shelter. The risk of a massive outbreak of disease is rising, making this a race against time to save thousands.

Combating this, UNICEF is supplying 350,000 people with clean water (and aiming to supply another quarter million by the end of August) and has opened 14 centres for malnourished children in the past eight weeks.

" The government of Sudan should remove all bureaucratic hurdles that may slow us down," says UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy, who visited Darfur last week, "and it has a responsibility to protect all Sudanese citizens from harm."



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Children’s struggle for survival.

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