Aid agencies pressure AU leaders over Darfur

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- International aid agencies Sunday once again called on the African Union Summit due begin here Monday to tackle the conflict in Darfur, and warned that the humanitarian situation in the region was worsening, blocking thousands of needy civilians from accessing aid.
The aid agencies, including Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam International, Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision and UK's Save the Children, said in a joint statement that aid workers were facing violence "on a scale not seen before in Darfur.
" They said access to people in need at the conflict's lowest point was crucial at this time when the humanitarian need is greater than ever.
Houghton Irungu, Oxfam's Pan Africa Policy Advisor, urged the AU in Addis Ababa, to call for an immediate end to the conflict in Darfur, lamenting that hundreds more people have been killed in Darfur since January.
"The conflict has dragged on far too long and is now worse than it's ever been.
"To wait any longer puts hundreds of thousands of lives in danger and risks a total breakdown of the entire humanitarian response," he warned in the statement issued in Addis Ababa, Sunday.
"Today must be the time the African Union, the UN and the international community say 'enough is enough,'" he emphasised.
Aid agencies report that attacks on civilians are again rising and forcing even more people to flee their homes.
They said a breakdown of the aid response would leave millions in even greater danger.
"The worsening four-year-old crisis must not be allowed to deteriorate any further," they warned in the joint statement.
Hussein Halane, Save the Children Country Director in Sudan said efforts to restore security in Darfur could become successful if regular "firewood patrols" were restored in Darfur, to protect women leaving the camps to collect firewood.
"The international community has failed the people of Darfur by not providing the AU force with the funds, equipment and support that it needs.
But the AU can – and must – do more with the resources already at its disposal.
There is no reason why firewood patrols cannot resume immediately," Halane said.
Aid agencies warn "the enormous humanitarian response" in Darfur will soon be paralysed unless African leaders attending the summit take urgent action to end the rising violence against civilians and aid workers.
They said African Heads of States and UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon will fail the people of Darfur if they do not take concrete steps to herald the start of a new chapter in the region and ensure an immediate ceasefire that is both agreed and adhered to.
Fresh fighting in January has left more than 350 people dead and forced tens of thousands more from their homes.
"Splits in the rebel movements and a widespread lack of accountability have left Darfur increasingly lawless, leading to the direct targeting of aid workers.
The violence has spread throughout Darfur and crossed the border into Chad," the aid agencies accounted.

28 january 2007 13:16:00

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