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Death Toll in Sudan’s Darfur Conflict Climbs to 70,000

The new figure includes thousands of Sudanese who have died from malnutrition and disease in and around refugee camps near the border with Chad. Until now, relief workers had not been able to reach several remote areas to get a full count.

“There are 70,000 that have died as a result of the conditions in which they are living,” said David Nabarro, the head of the U.N.’s World Health Organization. “The humanitarian environment is still unsatisfactory in Darfur,” he said during a press conference.

The monthly fatality rate hovers at about 10,000, Nabarro said.

He added that U.N. agencies have received only half of the $300 million in aid requested from the international community.

“We have not managed to take on board the extraordinary challenges of the size of Darfur,” he said.

Aid agencies have complained that lack of funds has undercut the distribution system, forcing workers to distribute food and medicine via four-wheeled drive vehicles rather than helicopters and limiting the number of distribution flights.

These shortcomings have proved dangerous for those working in the area. Two aid workers were killed Oct.10 when their jeep hit an unexploded land mine in rebel-held territory near Ummbaru, the BBC reported.

The crisis in Sudan, which began in early 2003 when Darfur rebels revolted against the government citing poor conditions in the region, has left some 1.5 million people homeless. Many of those who have fled are now living in camps where poor sanitation has caused the outbreak of diseases like malaria, cholera and dysentery.

The latest number of dead does not account for the thousands killed in fighting between rebels and government-backed militias.

Peace talks between the two groups are set resume on Oct. 21 after initial attempts to mediate a peace deal collapsed in September over disarmament and troop issues, Reuters reported.

Also on Friday, Nigerian President and African Union leader Olusegun Obasanjo said the AU would deploy 4,000 troops to Darfur over the weekend to join about 500 troops already stationed in the region.

The troops will come mainly from Rwanda with a small number from Nigeria, Obasanjo said. A decision on what duties the troops will perform is expected Oct. 20.

Sudanese leaders have opposed the troop deployment in the region.