Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) says Arab militias attacking and destroying villages in the Sudan (search) is a "catastrophe." The State Department calls it "ethnic cleansing."

The Sudanese government has been turning a blind eye — or in some cases, even supporting the militias — while making it very difficult to get humanitarian aid to its suffering people.

Crops, cattle and irrigation systems have been destroyed and more than 1 million Africans there have become refugees. The Agency for International Development (search) says 350,000 people could die of disease and starvation over the next several months.

Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a congressional delegation led by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., are headed to the Sudanese capital next week to try to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis.

Powell is the highest-ranking U.S. official to go there since the late 1970s. He said he wants to take a particular look at the Darfur (search) region in western Sudan, where hundreds of villages have been attacked by the militias. He also plans to tell Sudanese leaders to "let the aid flow freely."

Click in the video box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Teri Schultz.