UN: 70,000 dead in Darfour since March

Monday, October 18, 2004

The United Nations estimates at least 70,000 people have died or been killed in Sudan's Darfour province since March 2004.

The World Health Organization identified the casualties as those driven from their homes in Darfour over the last year. Many of the Darfour residents were said to have been killed in attacks by state-sponsored Arab militias.

"A significant percentage of deaths even between June and August 2004 is associated with violence, though its origins and nature have not been determined," the report, released at the agency's headquarters in Geneva, said.

The report, released on Oct. 15, said up to 15 percent of the casualties in the refugee camps were killed by the regime-aligned Janjaweed militia, Middle East Newsline reported.

The rest of the Darfour residents, said to have been black Christians, died from disease, including diarrhea, fever and respiratory ailments.

The UN assessment marked a higher death toll than that reported by the WHO in September 2004. Last month, the health agency reported that about 50,000 Darfour residents have died since March, when the UN entered the Sudanese province in an effort to provide shelter and food for those driven out of their homes in the civil war.

The Janjaweed has been identified as spearheading the regime offensive against Darfour rebels. Officials said about 50,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million others were driven out of their homes during the offensive. Many of those who fled were taken to camps sponsored by the UN.

"The estimated population of displaced people in Darfour during June 2004 was 1.2 million," the report said. "By September 2004 the estimate has increased to 1.8 million."

Despite a ceasefire in Darfour, UN officials said Janjaweed and others continued to attack civilians in the western Sudanese province. The UN has determined that security in Darfour declined in September 2004.

UN officials said that at least five villages were attacked and torched over the last two weeks. Relief agencies have also reported attacks on their staffers.

The international relief effort in Darfour has been hampered by the continued fighting in Darfour. The African Union has pledged to deploy 4,500 troops in the province by Nov. 30.

The Sudanese government has disputed the UN report and said the WHO's office in Khartoum did not provide such information. The Khartoum regime has denied any link to the Janjaweed.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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