WASHINGTON, July 29, 2004 (dpa) — The conflict in western Sudan has claimed as many as 80,000 lives through violence, hunger and disease, a high-ranking U.S. aid official said Thursday.
Roger Winter, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told foreign journalists in Washington that an estimated 30,000 people had been slain during the ongoing crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, with another 50,000 deaths from malnutrition and disease largely among the huge populations fleeing the violence.
The death toll could rise in the coming months, as Winter estimated that about 350,000 people are in danger from the mounting humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations Security Council planned to vote Friday on a U.S.-British resolution calling for an arms embargo on the Arab militias known as Janjaweed, who have been accused of committing grave atrocities against black Africans in Darfur. The Sudanese government in Khartoum has been linked to the Arab militias and is under mounting pressure to quell the violence.
The militias have allegedly attacked villages, slaying civilians and intentionally creating a wave of refugees, while also burning crops and killing livestock.
Calling it a "humanitarian disaster of the first magnitude", Winter estimated that the worst of the crisis will drag out for at least 18 months, even if security conditions could be immediately corrected and refugees were able to return home shortly.
"That’s because the planting seasons for this year have already been lost," he said. "That means this population, which is normally a rather self-sufficient population, will continue to be dependent for the impact of another whole planting season."
USAID estimates that 1.2 million refugees are displaced within Darfur, while another 200,000 people have sought sanctuary across the Sudanese border in neighbouring Chad. In all, 650,000 people in Darfur are receiving food assistance, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.