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Egeland: 'Meltdown' in Darfur

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Citing a "dramatic deterioration" of the situation in Darfur, the top U.N. humanitarian official said a crisis is approaching for the region in Sudan that could cost millions of lives.

"I was there in 2004 when there was 1 million people in need," Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, told reporters. "2005, 2 million ... in the spring, 3 million. And now there are 4 million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance."

Egeland briefed the U.N. Security Council Wednesday on Darfur.

In a report from Reuters, Egeland also accused Sudan of deliberately hindering relief aid in Darfur, attacking villages and arming brutal militia to combat rebels and bandits.

Egeland told the Security Council that international relief operations were threatened by government obstruction and members needed to talk to Sudanese officials immediately as well as put pressure on those sending arms to rebels.

"The next weeks may be make or break for our lifeline to more than 3 million people," Egeland said in the Reuters report. "This period may well be the last opportunity for this Council, the government of Sudan, the African Union, the rebels, and all of us to avert a humanitarian disaster of much larger proportions than even the one we so far have witnessed in Darfur."

Part of the problem, Egeland said, is a "meltdown in security. The humanitarians are confined to the towns. We cannot even reach many of the camps."

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday that negotiations continue on whether Sudan will allow U.N. peacekeepers to be stationed in Darfur, and that he is waiting to hear from Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

"I spoke to President Bashir today," Annan said, "and he indicated that he will be writing to me shortly. And I think I should wait for his letter." (Full story)

Last week, the United Nations said Sudan had agreed "in principle" to a plan that would station U.N. peacekeepers and African Union troops as a hybrid operation in Darfur. But Sudanese officials denied that, saying they would only accept technical and logistics support from the United Nations.

U.N. officials say at least 200,000 people have been slain in Darfur from fighting between government-backed troops, militias and rebels. Millions of others have been displaced.

The attacks by militias who support the Arab government against blacks in Darfur have been characterized as a genocide.

In late August, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1706, which expands the mandate of the U.N. mission in Sudan to include its deployment to Darfur.

"The failure is one of the government not being willing to protect its own citizens, rather fueling the conflict; of rebels not wanting to join the cease-fire; and of the international community, which is not living up to the responsibility to protect, which was solemnly sworn in this building one year ago," Egeland said.

The 4 million he mentioned, Egeland said, "are dependent on international assistance to survive the future. There is no economy. There are no nomadic roots anymore. There is nothing to sustain them except the international lifeline.

"Up until August, we were able to -- against all odds -- to reach up to 3 million of these people," he said. "Most of the people got assistance, and mortality decreased because of this -- the best-funded operation on Earth ... all of that is now at risk," he said.

"Ninety-five percent of the roads in west Darfur are no-go at the moment. We cannot go by road, except with massive military escort, and there will be hundreds of thousands who are beyond our reach and where we seem to have little hope of resuming activities unless we see a dramatic change for the better. But the reality is that the change is for the worse."


A Sudanese girl peers out of her shelter in early November at a refugee camp in Chad.


Crisis in Sudan
• Gallery: Humanitarian crisis
• Map: Sudan's Darfur region
• Behind the scenes: Amanpour
• Related sites: How to help
• An aid worker's diary
• Special: Crisis in Sudan
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