KHARTOUM Sudanese people who have fled a recent surge in fighting in the western Darfur region live in terrible conditions and face a "humanitarian disaster," a U.N. human rights expert said after visiting the strife-torn region.
War broke out in the western region of Darfur over a decade ago. Mainly African tribes took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalization.
Violence is down from a 2004-2005 peak but a new wave of fighting between the army, rebels and competing tribes has displaced since January about 300,000 people who live in camps across the vast arid region.
"The difficult conditions facing the people ... especially women and children, were terrible," Mashood Adebayo Baderin said on Thursday in Khartoum after visiting a camp for displaced people in South Darfur.
Baderin, a Nigerian asked by the United Nations Human Rights Council to assess the situation in Sudan, made his third trip to the African country.
"The tents were inadequate and most of the new IDPs (displaced people) have resorted to using local materials to construct make-shift shelter," he said, adding that urgent action was needed to avoid a "humanitarian disaster."
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir and other Sudanese officials on charges of masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognize the court.
Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur's conflict. The government says around 10,000 people have been killed.
Baderin said the humanitarian situation was worsening in parts of Blue Nile state, where the Sudanese army is also fighting rebels, who accuse the government of neglect.
"I am ... concerned about civilians trapped in rebel-controlled areas as a result of the belligerent activities of government and rebel forces in the region," he said.
"I have been informed that many displaced and vulnerable civilians have been forced to move further south without access to basic necessities such as water and food," he said, adding that access for aid agencies in government-controlled areas had improved.