KHARTOUM, 21 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - At least one million children affected by the ongoing conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur are beyond the reach of current relief efforts due to insecurity, according to the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF).
These children, it said, are living in an environment that exposed them to malnutrition, illness, violence and fear.
"Relief efforts have significantly improved the overall situation in Darfur since 2004, but persistent instability and a political stalemate mean that children have little hope for any meaningful future," said Ted Chaiban, the UNICEF country representative in Sudan, at the launch of a report on the state of children in Darfur on Thursday.
"Darfur’s children deserve the same dividends of peace which children affected by Sudan’s north-south conflict are beginning to see," he said, referring to the peace accord that was signed by the Sudanese government and rebels in January to end a 21-year war in southern Sudan.
Chaiban called for support to the children of Darfur: "We need water and sanitation, which is extremely important. We need nonfood items - such as basic shelters, cooking pots, blankets, mosquito nets - to make sure that any population that is further displaced or in a rural community can have access to these goods.
"It is so important for children to regain a sense of normalcy," he said.
According to the report, 80 percent of children living throughout the 200 IDP camps and surrounding areas in Darfur now have access to clean water and 65 percent have access to sanitation. There are more than 230 health clinics.
UNICEF noted that the economy of Darfur was in steep decline, creating and reinforcing a reliance on humanitarian aid. Conditions were worsening for children living outside the IDP camps or in communities hitherto not directly affected by the fighting.
The report also said that daily, low-level violence was creating a climate of fear and further crippling core economic activities. Darfur had become "ghettoed", with members of different ethnic groups afraid to move beyond their immediate environments.
Violence against children was rampant. One in every three rapes reported in the region, for example, was committed on a child.
Chaiban commended the government for changing its practices to allow victims of rape the right to medical care and counselling without having to complete a police report. He called it a "practical step that needed to be taken on behalf of the children of Darfur".
The report is the first of a series on children in countries where it is traditionally difficult to raise attention. The aim is to convey the core problems facing children in these countries at a particular point in time, UNICEF said.
The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when rebels took up arms to fight "discrimination and oppression" by the Sudanese government. The government is accused of unleashing militia on civilians in an attempt to quash the rebellion.
The full report is available at: www.unicef.org