Violence Slows Aid To Darfur Refugees

pizzey -- darfur crisis
CBS
As food is delivered to a refugee camp, the welcome is as urgent as it is exuberant. Somewhere in the middle of the crowd is the American woman whose job is to feed millions of innocent victims of a devastating — and ongoing —war in the Darfur region of Sudan. CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports from Darfur on the heroic efforts that are being made to help them.

Barely three weeks after taking over as head of the world's largest aid agency, Josette Sheeran has come to the middle of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Most of the food aid in the refugee camps of Darfur goes to women, to ensure it feeds families and is not sold.

"We'll do what it takes to reach people, often at great risk to our own staff," says Sheeran, who is executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program.

Three million people have fled to the relative safety of the camps. But in spite of a peace agreement, fighting continues, cutting off aid workers from those most in need.

"We've had a series of carjackings, and since June of last year, the World Food Programme had 45 security incidents, security incidents," she says.

Sheeran must work with the Sudanese government — the same people who sponsor the "Janjaweed," an Arab militia that has rampaged across Darfur. More than 1,500 villages have been burned and Washington has accused the Janjaweed of genocide against black Africans. But the conflict is more complex than that.

Three years ago the people in a camp Pizzey visited had only two or three armed groups to fear — and flee. Now there are more than a dozen militias running rampant in Darfur, all with their own agendas, and paymasters.

A 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force can barely look after itself, never mind protecting displaced people or aid workers from non-governmental organizations.

"There are towns where we used to have NGOs and U.N. that have been abandoned because things are so insecure. ... For me things have gotten worse and worse," Chris Czerwinski of the World Food Programme in North Darfur.

For now, helicopters are the only safe way to get around Darfur. But $27 million is needed to keep them flying through the end of the year.

But so far, money for food aid has been easier to find than the will to confront the Sudanese government over the crisis, and until a political solution is found to the war, these people won't be going home anytime soon.