|Hundreds of thousands of Darfur children not in school
Urging donor nations to provide more assistance for education in conflict
zones, the NGO said present levels of support had failed to meet all the
NAIROBI, 28 February 2008 (IRIN) - About 650,000 or half of all children in
Darfur do not receive an education, despite efforts by various
organisations to provide schooling in camps and towns across the western
Sudanese region, an international NGO said.
"Education is the foundation for economically viable and more peaceful
societies. But the international community has been loath to fund schooling
in conflict situations," Charles MacCormack, president of Save the Children
US, said in a statement on 27 February. "This is shortsighted."
In West Darfur State alone, 200,000 children come of school-age every year
- of whom 22,440 are being assisted by Save the Children to attend classes
in 42 schools in camps and towns.
"We cannot afford to wait to begin education programmes until violence
ceases and families can return home," MacCormack said. "What about the
children whose time for school is now? Are they to be left by the wayside
Photo: Christine Madison/IRIN
Refugee children from Darfur: Half of all children in Darfur do not receive
The Darfur conflict, which began in 2003 when communities in the region
took up arms to fight alleged marginalisation by the Sudanese government,
has displaced more than one million children. The government responded by
arming militias, but these have since been accused of abusing civilians.
In recent weeks, attacks by Sudanese government forces have displaced
thousands more civilians, including children, and hindered humanitarian
access to those affected.
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), a recent high-level mission
to El-Geneina and Sirba in West Darfur found that thousands of civilians
had remained trapped in Jebel Moun where fighting continues, without
protection, shelter, food or belongings. However, about 24,000 were
reported to have returned to Sirba and Abu Saroug.
The Sudanese government denies targeting civilians, saying the attacks were
being carried out to flush out rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM), who have been hiding among civilians in the area.
William Spindler, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR), told a news conference on 26 February in Geneva that some of the
affected civilians had either gone to other villages or were attempting the
dangerous journey to Chad.
"According to our team, more people have crossed into Chad over the past
weekend following renewed attacks on Jebel Moun," he said. "The latest
arrivals are mainly women, children and elderly people and they are
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says more than
250,000 Sudanese refugees and 180,000 internally displaced persons are in
A camp for the displaced in Darfur
The attacks have, however, made the situation increasingly bleak in recent
months, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In a 27 February letter urging the UN Security Council to condemn recent
"horrific" attacks on Darfur civilians and to impose targeted sanctions on
those responsible, it said the situation was reminiscent of the worst
periods of the conflict in 2004.
According to the letter, Sudanese armed forces backed by Janjawid militia
attacked three West Darfur villages on 8 February, in which hundreds of
civilians died, and tens of thousands were displaced.
The attacks, said Georgette Gagnon, HRW's Africa division director, cut off
at least 20,000 civilians from humanitarian assistance and breached the ban
on offensive military fly-overs imposed by the Security Council. It also
underlined the government's failure to disarm the Janjawid militia.
"The attacks marked the beginning of a campaign of aerial bombardments and
ground attacks that continues today, which includes the bombing of a
recently emptied refugee camp at Aro Sharrow in West Darfur," Gagnon said.