Oxfam Warns There is No Room for Complacency in Darfur, Sudan

By Oxfam

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As the United Nations Security Council convenes today to discuss the UN's latest report on Darfur, international aid agency Oxfam is calling for the world's attention to focus on this western region of Sudan where violence has forced nearly 2 million people from their homes.
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>"The international good will that has been generated by the signing of the peace agreement to end the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan must be coupled with increased efforts to solve the ongoing conflict in Darfur," said Caroline Nursey, Oxfam's regional director.
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>Renewed fighting and insecurity during the last month has resulted in thousands of more Sudanese fleeing their homes. In late December, more than 5,000 people arrived at Kalma camp in South Darfur and another 5,000 at Mellit in North Darfur after their villages were attacked and burned. Security remains precarious and tensions are high. Civilians throughout Darfur continue to be targeted.
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>The African Union mission, sent to monitor the ceasefire in Darfur, still has only 1,256 members on the ground. An agreement was signed nearly three months ago to expand the mission to more 3,000, but lack of support, personnel, and accommodation has caused delays.
>Oxfam is urging donors to deliver their remaining pledges for the mission, and AU member states to swiftly fulfill their commitments for additional personnel, in particular the deployment of police.
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>"A fully expanded African Union presence in Darfur is essential to monitor the ceasefire, protect civilians and help to prevent further fighting," said Nursey. "Additional AU troops must be deployed to Darfur at once to establish a greater presence and to patrol areas where threats to civilians are greatest. The peace talks mediated by the African Union in Abuja must also resume without delay and be clearly linked to the wider peace process in Sudan."
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>The 22-month conflict has displaced nearly 1.7 million people, about a third of the population of Darfur. About 200,000 of them have fled across the border to Chad. The situation remains extremely precarious, with hundreds of thousands of people crowded into temporary camps and towns throughout Darfur.
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>"Living conditions in many camps are terrible," said Venetia Bellers, Oxfam's program coordinator for South Darfur. "People are huddled in simple shelters made of sticks and plastic sheeting, shivering from the cold and the harsh winds. Many families have only one blanket for five or six people."
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