By MOHAMED OSMAN, Associated Press Writer
KHARTOUM, Oct 16, 2004 (AP) — Sudan on Saturday disputed a U.N. report saying 70,000 people have died since March in refugee camps in western Darfur province, saying the number couldn’t be more than 7,000.
On Friday, the World Health Organization estimated that at least 70,000 people had died in the camps, most because of poor conditions. The number doesn’t include those killed in fighting, including militia and government attacks on villages or on fleeing refugees.
Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, state minister at the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disputed the estimate.
"This report is totally wrong and not correct at all," he told The Associated Press.
He declined to give a specific figure, but said the real number was less than 10% that estimated by the U.N. health agency. He cited Sudanese government reports.
"The reports we have here speak of the situation for the last 32 weeks, and nowhere could we see what they were talking about," he said. He would not elaborate on the government reports.
Dr. David Nabarro, WHO’s head of crisis operations, said Friday that refugees will continue to die unless countries provide more money to help them.
"We are running on a threadbare, hand-to-mouth existence, and if the plight of these people in Darfur is as important to the international community as it seems to be, then we would have expected more long-term support," he said.
He said the U.N. has only received half of the $300 million that it needs to do its work.
Sudan ’s government is accused of using Arab militias to put down a 19-month rebellion by non-Arab African groups in Darfur. The government denies supporting the militias, and has called the reported death tolls exaggerated.
The only death toll it has provided came last month, when it said around 200 of its policemen were killed in the fighting.