Friday, July 2, 2004

Sudan urged to take urgent action to protect refugees

The UN is urging the Sudanese Government to take urgent action to protect more than 1 million refugees.

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan is urging the Sudanese Government to take urgent action to protect more than 1 million displaced people in the country's Darfur region.

Mr Annan has visited some of the worst affected areas of Darfur in western Sudan and says the refugees will not be forced to return home without guarantees of protection.

He met with government officials and some of the estimated 1.2 million people who have been displaced by unrest in the region.

Mr Annan says the situation in Darfur is one of the biggest logistical nightmares the UN has ever faced.

Residents have been forced to flee their homes because of ongoing attacks by Arab militia groups.

The Sudanese Government has denied it is supporting the militias.

Mr Annan is urging the Government to restore order so that families can return to their villages.

Meanwhile, some 10,000 people in Darfur could die of cholera and dysentery in July alone unless a massive aid operation can be set up to helicopter in food and medicines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

A cholera epidemic could break out within weeks now that heavy rains have begun, striking 200,000 to 300,000 of the displaced people in the troubled Darfur region, a top WHO official told a news briefing.

"We anticipate that if things go ahead as at the moment, 10,000 people will die in the next month," David Nabarro, head of WHO's unit for health action in crises, told a news briefing in Geneva after a trip to Darfur.

"However, if we can get a strong, effective relief operation in place then we can bring that death rate down to less than 3,000 people in the next month," he said.

Dr Nabarro said this could be done by preparing for diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, malaria and other infectious diseases.

By Sally Sara 2 July 04

Terrorism obscuring world crises, Deane says
The former governor-general, Sir William Deane, has advised Australians not to lose perspective about international crises during the ongoing focus on terrorism.