Mia Farrow to start fast over Darfur

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Actress Mia Farrow, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, announced on Tuesday that she will begin a hunger strike next week to show solidarity with the people of Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region.

Actress Mia Farrow, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, smiles as she holds a Haitian baby during her visit to a shelter in the town of Gonaives, September 20, 2008. REUTERS/ Eduardo Munoz

“On April 27 I will begin a fast of water only in solidarity with the people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease,” Farrow said in a statement.

A spokesman for Farrow said she would stick with the hunger strike as long as possible, which her doctors estimate is a maximum of around three weeks given Farrow’s slim build.

Farrow, who was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. children’s foundation UNICEF in 2000, has been actively campaigning for years to raise funds and awareness for children in conflict zones like Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Chad and Nigeria.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last month, charging him with masterminding mass killings and deportations in Darfur in western Sudan.

Since then, Sudan has expelled 13 foreign and three domestic humanitarian aid agencies, accusing them of collaborating with The Hague-based ICC.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his latest report on the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, that the expulsions had put “over 1 million people at life-threatening risk” in Darfur.

A joint U.N.-Sudanese assessment of the situation in Darfur found that the removal of roughly half of the aid personnel there had created a gap in the delivery of supplies and services across Darfur, an area roughly the size of France.

“I undertake this fast in the heartfelt hope that world leaders who know what is just and right will call upon the government of Sudan to urgently readmit all of the expelled agencies or otherwise insure that the (aid distribution) gap is filled,” Farrow said.

She added that she hopes other “human rights advocates and citizens of conscience around the world will join me in some form of fasting, even if for one day.”

Sudanese U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem said that Farrow should use her fame instead to help persuade rebel groups to stop boycotting peace talks with Khartoum.

“We advise her rather to ask those who are in a position to do so to put pressure on the rebel groups to come to the negotiating table,” he told Reuters. “The government is committed to the welfare of its own citizens and doesn’t need anybody to remind it of that.”

“Darfur should cease to be an arena for those seeking fame and publicity,” he added.

U.N. officials say that as many as 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in Darfur in almost six years of ethnic and political violence.

Khartoum, however, says 10,000 people have died. Some 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid in Darfur.

Editing by Philip Barbara