24 June 2004 An envoy from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is visiting the troubled Darfur region of Sudan to assess the humanitarian needs of the thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in temporary camps.
Briefing reporters today, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said WHO sent David Nabarro to Darfur as UN relief agencies continue their battle to provide assistance to as many people as possible, despite the difficulties caused by the recent start of the annual rainy season.
The residents of one IDP camp in south Darfur told Mr. Nabarro that they would not leave until international peacekeepers are deployed or until Sudanese police take action against the militias carrying out brutal attacks against civilians.
Last month a UN human rights report found that Arab Janjaweed militias - recruited and armed by the Sudanese Government as part of its war with two rebel groups in Darfur - have carried out numerous human rights violations against the region's black African population.
IDPs have told aid workers in south Darfur that the Janjaweed have conducted two attacks in the past week. On Sunday night, militia members are reported to have looted plastic sheeting and blankets and on Tuesday, the militias are said to have raped two people, beaten two others and looted some humanitarian assistance.
Aid workers have called on Sudanese authorities to delay the relocation of the IDPs until police reinforcements are provided to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, responding to criticisms that Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN have not done enough to tackle the crisis in Darfur, Mr. Eckhard said they have applied increasing pressure on Sudan to get the situation under control, and especially to control the Janjaweed.
Mr. Eckhard also said that Mr. Annan's scheduled visit to Sudan next week, which includes a trip to Darfur, would further ratchet up international pressure over the issue and reinvigorate peace efforts.