Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Darfur famine looms: UN

`ACTION NOW' The UN's top relief official, in unusually strong wording, said the Security Council must come to an agreement on war-torn Sudan before it's too late


The situation in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region is deteriorating, with millions at risk of starvation if the world community cannot agree to act soon, the UN's top relief official warned Friday.

The dire assessment from UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland came with the UN Security Council at a deadlock over legal steps that could bring an end to the bloodshed, which has left tens of thousands dead.

Egeland, responsible for running UN aid operations across the globe, including for the Asian tsunami, said the ongoing violence in Darfur is disastrously hampering aid efforts.

In unusually strong words, he put pressure on Security Council nations to put aside their differences and take steps to end the bloodletting, which he said was impeding aid operations to deliver food to the starving.

"Too often the world sends us the Band-Aid, and the world believes that we keep people alive and then they don't have to take a political and security action," Egeland told a news briefing.

"This is wrong," he said. "That's why we are really tired of being that kind of a substitute for political and security action."

He said the ongoing killing in Darfur, about which the Security Council is deeply divided, risked leaving as many as four million people without access to emergency food relief because of security concerns.

Relief workers are being threatened, attacked and killed in Darfur, where fighting between the government and rebels has sparked disputes over how to deal with potential war crimes.

"We did prevent the massive famine that many predicted, but I think now it's time to say we may perhaps not be able to do so in the coming months if the situation keeps on deteriorating," he said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan this week said the people of Darfur were living through "hell on earth," but the Security Council -- largely for political considerations -- is sharply divided on what to do.

While it has taken the lead in bringing attention to Darfur, the US opposes bringing rights violators to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague because it fears political trials against its own nationals.

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