UN to vaccinate children trapped behind Sudan's rebel frontlines

Rebel groups in Sudan's western Darfur region have agreed to allow some 500,000 children cut off from regular health services to be vaccinated against such potentially killer diseases as measles and polio, the UN has announced.

Agreement was reached with the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) after a UN team met their representatives last Friday in Asmara, Eritrea, according to the UN in Khartoum. The Sudanese health ministry endorsed the initiative.

Although a massive vaccination campaign had already reached millions of children in Darfur, an estimated half million youngsters had missed out because they were living behind rebel lines.

The top UN envoy for Sudan, Jan Pronk, welcomed the development.

"This is a good example of the kind of cooperation needed from both sides to deliver the relief that is urgently needed. It is crucial that vaccines reach all children in all areas of Darfur," he said.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the security situation in Darfur remained "tenuous", with more violence directed at, and displacing, civilians in North and South Darfur States.

Suspected Janjaweed militia attacked some 35 families in North Darfur on Saturday. Reports also continue of attacks by armed men on horses and camels, supported by uniformed men and military vehicles, in South Darfur.

In North Darfur, there also have been reports of Sudanese authorities offering up to 100,000 Sudanese dinars, or nearly $400, to leaders of groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to get them to persuade people to return voluntarily to their areas of origin. Despite pressure, the IDPs are choosing to stay put because of security concerns. There are some 1.2 million IDPs in Sudan, with another 200,000 Sudanese across the border in Chad housed in refugee camps.


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