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Darfur’s dangers make it hard to scrape a living–report

9/28/2005 11:01am

LONDON (AlertNet) - The Darfur crisis is far from over, says new research that warns of looming food shortages in the war-torn area of western Sudan and urges agencies to stockpile aid on the borders.

“Never before in the history of Darfur has there been such a combination of factors causing the failure of livelihood strategies and loss of assets,” says the new report by the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University in Boston.

Traditional ways of earning a living that been disrupted by two years of conflict need to be revived if people are to get back on their feet, the report says. Attacks by government troops and Arab militia have forced about two million people, mostly black villagers, from their homes in western Sudan.

Reports continue of massacres, rape, torture and looting despite a nominal ceasefire, and the United Nations has described the situation as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Many villagers have lost their belongings, including crops, land and animals, while insecurity in the region makes it hard for people to trade, make phone calls or receive money from relatives elsewhere.

At least 180,000 people in Darfur have died from violence, hunger and disease, and the report calls for compensation for losses during the conflict.

It says peace agreements need to take into account the grievances that were major factors in starting the conflict, such as Darfur’s marginalisation by Khartoum, manipulation of ethnic identities by the government and political parties, failures in the local judicial system, and pressure on natural resources.

The report says aid organisations should pay more attention to the feelings of communities and groups aligned with the government, as well as those who have been targeted by militias.

“If humanitarian aid fails to reach affected Arab groups, this will almost certainly inflame tensions, and could even contribute to harassment or reprisals against humanitarian workers,” says the report.

The authors make recommendations in six broad areas: security, land, livestock, markets, migration and communication and international humanitarian response.

They suggest establishing commissions to look at people’s losses of land and livestock, as well as a “livelihoods task force”, under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union, to monitor the conditions affecting livelihoods.

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