GENEVA – The United Nations' top humanitarian official warned Thursday that the situation in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region was becoming dramatically more dangerous, as rapes and attacks by militias and rebel factions continue despite a 3-month-old peace deal.
The U.N. said a day earlier that the May 5 peace deal, signed between Sudan's government and Darfur's main rebel group, was "doomed to failure" unless the government provided more support.
"It's going from real bad to catastrophic in Darfur," Jan Egeland told reporters at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva.
Fighting has actually increased since the peace deal, "and it has been particularly terrible among (rebel) factions fighting each other," Egeland said. "That's led to tens of thousands of people being displaced, and sexual abuse and many other types of violations."
More than 200,000 have been killed in the region since 2003, when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government.
The peace deal, signed in Nigeria, was supposed to help end the conflict, but instead has triggered months of fighting between factions of the Sudan Liberation Army. The U.N., aid groups and beleaguered African Union peacekeepers say rebel factions are seeking to gain advantage before peace takes hold.
The report released Wednesday by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Sudan's government and all parties to immediately comply with the peace deal's cease-fire provisions. It also called on the international community to support the African Union force in Sudan until a U.N. operation could be deployed.
The U.N. report said armed militias continued to attack villages, and on at least one occasion they were supported by government forces.
"The government should disarm the militia and protect the physical security of all Darfurians by putting in place a credible, capable and professional police force and judiciary," the 20-page report said.
"Civilian populations continued to be targeted by militia and the government and rebel movements are in breach of the new cease-fire," the report said.
New clashes have left countless dead, the conflict has caused more than 2 million to flee their homes, and 1 million people are relying on food aid because their fields were razed or they are too afraid to go out to farm.
Violence also has affected humanitarian efforts: The U.N. said at least 250,000 people who needed aid at the end of June could not be reached.
Last month was the deadliest month for aid workers since the conflict began. Eight Sudanese humanitarian workers were killed in road ambushes when they were working at water pumps, or in one case, during a nighttime village attack.
Aid groups warned Tuesday that conditions for millions of civilians could deteriorate quickly if security did not improve. They said spiraling violence was causing a rise in malnutrition and the spread of disease in some camps for displaced persons.
The U.N. estimates that 25,000 people were newly displaced by fighting in the last month.