Film star Mahmoud Yassin today called on Arabs worldwide to provide more humanitarian assistance to millions of victims of conflicts in western Sudan’s Darfur region and South Sudan to help bolster the peace agreement for the South and peace talks in Darfur.
The Egyptian movie and stage actor, is the Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). He visited camps in Nyala, South Darfur, where tens of thousands of people live in very harsh conditions after being displaced from their villages by conflict that has ravaged the region since early 2003.
During a two day visit to South Darfur, Yassin met Fathia, a mother of two, who was carrying her emaciated four year old son, Faisal (who looks half his age) to a WFP-supported therapeutic feeding clinic. She told Yassin that she was desperate for her son to survive. The clinic, run by the non-governmental organisation Action Contre la Faim, takes care of at least 60 severely malnourished children in Otash camp just outside Nyala.
“Displaced people told me they want to go home but they were afraid of insecurity in some places. Until all of them are able to go home safely, we must help to maintain their dignity and provide for their basic needs,” Yassin, said during a press conference in Khartoum today.
WFP stressed that humanitarian needs would remain extremely high in Sudan in 2006, with at least 2.5 million people requiring food assistance in Darfur alone, in addition to the nearly three million people in the south, east and transitional areas of Sudan. The comprehensive peace agreement signed in January this year between the government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement ended a 21-year-old civil war and is encouraging hundreds of thousands of displaced people and refugees to return.
Although operational plans are still being finalized, WFP estimates total food and logistic needs for 2006 to amount to more than US$800 million.
“We hope Arab countries that have been generous in aiding Sudan bilaterally will extend their help to WFP beneficiaries, especially in 2006 which we view as a year of transition from emergency operations towards recovery measures. Support for school feeding and food in exchange for building community assets like access roads is essential,” said Ramiro Lopes Da Silva, WFP’s representative in Sudan.
Yassin, who played leading roles in over 160 movies and 25 plays over the past 40 years, said that he was touched by the resilience and strength of the displaced people he met.
“But they need support and we, worldwide and especially in the Arab world, must provide it, not only to maintain their dignity but to safeguard ours,” he stressed at the end of three days total in Sudan. “They are very proud people and they look forward to a peaceful resolution of the conflict so that they can very quickly go home and resume normal life. They have been scarred but they will overcome it,” he added.
Results of the largest food security and nutrition assessment yet carried out in the Darfur region of western Sudan in September showed global acute malnutrition rates among children under the age of five falling to 11.9 percent in September from 21.8 percent at the same time last year.
"These results underlined the importance of maintaining food aid as well as other services particularly water, sanitation and health care because this is how we can continue to decrease these rates," said Lopes da Silva. “People in Darfur are still living on a tightrope; humanitarian assistance is indispensable, and it must continue.”