People in Darfur 'at Grave Risk of Dying in Large Numbers'

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The humanitarian situation in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region is not improving despite an increase in the number of relief groups working in the area, according to the international medical charity agency Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

MSF head Dr. Rowan Gillies, who spent a month working in the clinics and camps in Darfur, said there was widespread suffering, inadequate relief efforts and continuing violence.

Despite greater access to the area -- the government earlier restricted entry -- the urgent needs of civilians still are not being met.

"Hardly anyone is getting the care civilians should get in a conflict," Gillies said. "There are pockets of real disaster, where people are at grave risk of dying in large numbers."

For instance, in one big camp around El Geneina area, only a third of the displaced people have a card entitling them to food from the United Nations.

MSF said it was currently treating some 8,000 children for malnutrition across Darfur.

Shortages of water, food, shelter and latrines was contributing to high levels of diarrhea among children, a major cause of death.

Gilles said he personally treated women who had been raped and boys who had been beaten while collecting firewood outside the camp perimeter.

According to U.N. estimates, an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced by the fighting and around two million people are urgently in need of food.

The U.N. estimates that 50,000 people have died from armed attacks, malnutrition and diseases since the conflict between African rebels and government-backed Arab militias began early last year.

In Washington, U.S. Agency for International Development representative Roger Winter said it was projected that "by the end of the year, in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 350,000 excess deaths will occur."

The dire humanitarian reports come at the time when the Khartoum regime is being pressed by the international community to end the atrocities or face punitive measures.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a resolution formalizing that position.

The government, meanwhile, has threatened retaliation against any foreign troops sent to stem violence in that country.

"We are not looking for confrontation and we hope that we will not be pushed," a senior official told reporters. "If we are being attacked, definitely we are not going to sit silent, we will retaliate."

See related story:
Arab World Resists Tough Action Against Sudanese Gov't (Jul. 30, 2004)

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