ROME, Nov 30, 2004 (AP) — People forced from their homes by violence in Sudan’s Darfur region could remain in refugee camps for another year unless far more troops with a stronger mandate are sent in to boost security, a U.S. diplomat said Tuesday.
|Tony Hall, the US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture, poses in front of a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) truck carrying food aid donated by the US, Monday, Nov.22, 2004, in the desert of Libya near the Chad border.|
Tony Hall, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome, said he believed that African Union troops in Darfur were too spread out and lacked a mandate to stop continuing violence.
Briefing journalists after a recent trip to Darfur, Hall said that if displaced people now housed in camps there did not return home in the next four or five months they would miss planting for next year’s harvest and be forced to remain in the camps.
If people cannot return home in that timeframe "we’ll be talking about this again this time next year," Hall said. He added that 23% of children in the region were acutely malnourished.
The 22-month conflict in Darfur has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people. This month, aid groups in the region have reported a fresh outbreak of violence that followed a Nov. 9 cease-fire agreement between rebels and the government.
"They can’t get them in fast enough," Hall said, saying that many more African Union troops were needed than the 3,500 he said were currently allocated for Darfur.
Displaced people housed in camps are "living in fear," Hall said, adding that women risked rape when they left the camps to get firewood.
Hall said that aid agencies did not have security to operate in Darfur, and were currently unable to reach 500,000-600,000 people, noting that fighting between the government and rebels in North Darfur has caused aid groups to suspend operations there.
He called for the U.N. and individual governments to put more pressure on Sudan to honor pledges to give aid groups access to the area.