LONDON – The suffering people of war-ravaged western Sudan need the help of their government and the international community if a humanitarian disaster is to be averted, the aid agency Oxfam (search) said Monday.
Oxfam warned that thousands of people in the troubled region of Darfur face disease and starvation over the next three months as food and fresh water supplies run dangerously low.
Sudan announced Friday that it had eased restrictions on humanitarian groups trying to assist in Darfur, where more than a year of fighting has displaced almost 1 million people.
As a result of Sudan's decision, an extra 15 expert Oxfam workers would be heading to the region, Oxfam regional director Caroline Nursey said in a statement issued by the charity.
"I hope this new move will mean that our water engineers can finally get to the Darfur (search) region and to remote communities where people need urgent help," she said.
"However, access must be sustained over the next three months and beyond if we are to significantly improve the health of thousands of displaced people and prevent outbreaks of disease."
"This crisis is bigger than any one agency can cope with and the international community and the government of Sudan need to work together to end civilian suffering," Nursey said.
Thousands of people are believed to have died since early 2003 when rebels began fighting for autonomy and greater state aid. The conflict has displaced about 900,000 refugees in Darfur's three states, and an additional 100,000 have fled into Chad.
Aid agencies have accused the Arab-dominated Sudan government of providing support to Arab militiamen waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against African tribes. Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir (search) has denied the claims.
The Islamic government in Khartoum has been fighting Christians and animists in the southern Sudan for more than two decades, a war in which at least 2 million people are estimated to have died.