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U.N. puts Darfur death toll at 300,000

THE WORLD

Its humanitarian chief laments stalled efforts to end the crisis. Sudan disputes the figure.

April 23, 2008|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.'s humanitarian chief on Tuesday updated the estimated number of conflict-related deaths in Darfur to about 300,000 and lamented that efforts to solve the crisis were stalled on all fronts.

In a briefing to the Security Council, John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said that continued attacks make it more difficult for aid workers to reach vulnerable people, food aid is about to be halved, the deployment of peacekeepers is beset by obstacles and the peace process has stalled.

"I am saddened and angry that after five years of suffering and four years since this council became actively engaged, we have still not been able to find a lasting solution to the suffering of these millions of men, women and children," he said.

Holmes also noted that there are six times more people suffering in Darfur than when the council first took up the issue four years ago this month. He said that five years of fighting between rebels and government-backed militias has seriously affected 4.27 million people, with 2.45 million internally displaced and an additional 260,000 becoming refugees in neighboring countries.

Holmes said that the combined effects of the conflict had claimed an estimated 200,000 lives by 2006.

"That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again," he said, adding that the estimate was "conservative."

Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem disputed the mortality figure, placing the number of dead at 10,000. Sudan's government previously put the number at 9,000.

Some human rights advocates say the number of people who have died of conflict-related causes is much higher.

Eric Reeves, a Sudan expert at Smith College, has done an exhaustive mortality study that suggests that more than 450,000 people have died as a result of violence, disease, trauma, and other causes exacerbated by the conflict.

The African Union mission in Sudan conducted body counts early in the conflict but has since stopped, and no other agencies in Darfur have tried to track specific deaths for political and logistical reasons, a U.N. official said.

Holmes said he extrapolated from previous estimates and studies, incorporating information gleaned from the U.N.'s camps for displaced people in Darfur.

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maggie.farley@latimes.com

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