NYALA, Sudan – Performers from Darfur's various ethnic African and Arab tribes greeted Mia Farrow with dancing and singing as she arrived in Sudan's remote western region to appeal for international aid for the 2.5 million people made refugees by the conflict here.
"Darfur is a humanitarian crisis of an order of magnitude I never witnessed before, and the picture is far more bleak today than since my last visit (in November 2004)," the 61-year-old actress told The Associated Press in an interview.
"I never spend a day without thinking about it ... it's impossible to put Darfur out of one's mind," she said.
Sudanese authorities allow only a trickle of foreign visitors and press into Darfur. Farrow — who received a travel permit barely one day before her five-day trip — said she would use her "privileged" tour to appeal for more international aid.
UNICEF says it only receives 20 percent of the funds it needs for Darfur, and the U.N.'s World Food Program has recently reduced food distribution to below the minimal rations because of lack of funding.
Regional Culture Minister Abuker Eltom, who greeted Farrow at the airport Sunday, said the artists dancing side by side for her arrival showed that ethnic groups could overcome the bitter enmity stemming from a four-year conflict that has killed more than 180,000 people.
The Darfur Peace Agreement signed last month between the Sudanese government and the main rebel group will open the way for peace in the area, Eltom said.
Farrow said the increased number both of refugees and warring factions — more than 20 antagonist rebel groups and pro-government militias — made the job increasingly perilous for aid workers.
The hostility of many refugees to the peace agreement, which they feel will inadequately compensate them, has also made it more difficult to distribute aid to the dozens of refugee camps across the region.
"Humanitarian workers are doing such heroic work here, while politicians have done so little," Farrow said.