19 March 2004 Describing the situation in western Sudan's Darfur region as "one of the worst in the world," the United Nations' most senior humanitarian official in Sudan has called for greater attention to the plight of civilians in the area.
Tom Eric Vraalsen, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, is working with UN staff to try to re-start talks on establishing a humanitarian ceasefire in Darfur.
UN agencies have received numerous reports of systematic, deliberate attacks against civilians in Darfur since fighting erupted a year ago between the Sudanese Government, rebel groups including the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), and local militia. Those reports include descriptions of murders, abductions, the burning of villages and the looting of property,
More than 110,000 Sudanese have fled across the border into neighbouring Chad to escape the conflict, while another 700,000 people are internally displaced within Darfur, beyond the reach of humanitarian officials because of the continuing fighting.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York today that while access for relief agencies "has improved slightly," fighting still constrains their work. But he said the prospects for the resumption of ceasefire talks are good.