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SUDAN: Escalating violence jeopardises harvest, ICRC warns

10/30/2005 4:59am

NAIROBI, 28 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Escalating violence throughout the western Sudanese region of Darfur poses a threat to the November harvest as well as to the seasonal migration of livestock, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report released on Thursday.

"Clashes between the parties to the conflict, tribal violence linked to cattle looting and access to grazing pastures, and increasing banditry have resulted in the death of scores of civilians and combatants, with hundreds more wounded, and displaced thousands of civilians who have had to take refuge in already overcrowded camps," the ICRC report noted.

"Our main concern is that the recent displacements, especially those engaged in farming, will greatly affect the harvest," Paul Conneally, ICRC communication coordinator in Khartoum, told IRIN on Friday.

Initial assessments estimated that 7,000 people had been displaced following the attacks on villages around Tawilla town in North Darfur in mid-September, but Conneally said the ICRC was conducting an assessment to establish the scale of the displacement and its effect on the upcoming harvest.

During an offensive that lasted from 18 to 20 September, local Sheikhs claim that government soldiers and Janjawid fighters - Arab militia aligned to the government - attacked more than 20 villages in the area.

The villages included Tarni, Soraj, Amar Jadid, Jabaien and Korofola. The attacks were possibly the largest ceasefire violations in Darfur since the beginning of 2005.

"We have cultivated a lot of millet, but with the insecurity, we are afraid to go back to harvest," Ali Mohamed Fadul, a local Sheik who oversees 45 villages, told IRIN on 7 October in ZamZam IDP camp on the outskirts of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

Humanitarian agencies had predicted a bumper harvest in the region this year, but feared it may be of little benefit to most of the recently displaced.

"It is a crucial time right now; crops have to be harvested in November," Conneally added.

The escalating violence was also hampering the seasonal migration of livestock, the report said. "The increase in violence is restricting the movement of livestock to their grazing and breeding grounds, Conneally explained.

"Many nomadic communities found themselves unable to use their traditional migration routes. Many groups simply didn't move, because they feared that the security situation didn't allow it, he added.

Nomadic groups in all three Darfur states had been affected by the increased insecurity, particularly in the remote rural areas, and many livestock did not have access to veterinary services for the past three years, Conneally said.

The ICRC had recently vaccinated 300,000 heads of livestock in North Darfur State, but much more needed to be done, he added. "Livestock is the backbone of the rural economy in Darfur," he noted.

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when rebels took up arms to fight what they called the discrimination and oppression of the region by the Sudanese government. The government is accused of unleashing militia - known as the Janjawid - on civilians in an attempt to quash the rebellion.

Some 3.3 million people continue to be affected by the conflict, according to the UN, of whom 1.8 million are internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad.


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