Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Libya agrees to establish corridor for aid to Darfur

AP , TRIPOLI, LIBYA

Libya agreed to open a corridor for food aid and other UN humanitarian supplies to help about 1.2 million people displaced by the Darfur conflict in western Sudan.

An agreement was signed Thursday between the Libyan government and UN World Food Program (WFP) in the capital, Tripoli, to guarantee the safe passage of food aid from the US and other donors through Libya to Sudan and Chad.

"This is a Libyan initiative to extend help to the Africans and to help achieve peace and security in Africa," Mohammed Sayala, Libya's deputy foreign minister, told a news conference after the signing ceremony.

John Powell, the WFP deputy executive director, said the first shipment of 450 tonnes of wheat flour from Switzerland is expected to arrive in the Libyan port of Benghazi early next month.

Powell expressed hope that relief aid would reach 1 million displaced Sudanese people next month and 1.5 million additional people in November.

Another 200,000 displaced Sudanese people are living in temporary camps along the border in neighboring Chad.

Meanwhile, in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, two top World Health Organization (WHO) officials said that increased funds and supplies were needed to save hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in Darfur from diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria.

"People are dying now because they are living in totally unsatisfactory conditions, but too many more could die in the coming weeks unless we prevent the lack of sanitation, malnutrition, shortage of clean water and the coming rains from combining into a recipe for death," WHO Director-general Lee Jong-wook said.

Lee and Hussein Gezairy, the WHO's regional director for the eastern Mediterranean region, visited camps and hospitals in southern and western Darfur.

In a press release, Lee and Gezairy said that progress has been achieved in providing relief, particularly healthcare, in the last few weeks, but that health risks could be reduced further with an intensified relief program.

The Darfur crisis has killed more than 30,000 and driven over 1 million people from their homes in what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Foreign governments plus international aid and rights groups accuse the Khartoum government of backing Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, who have carried out looting, destruction and evictions based on ethnicity.

The government has denied the charge.

A ceasefire was signed April 8, but both sides accuse the other of violations.

Sudanese officials and black African rebels fighting the 17-month war were to begin African Union-sponsored talks in Ethiopia on Thursday in a bid to end the conflict.

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