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UN reports fresh fighting in Sudan's Darfur region

2 December 2004 Fresh fighting broke out today in Sudan's western Darfur region where the Government, rebel and militia forces are embroiled in what the United Nations has called the world's worst current humanitarian crisis, the UN mission in Africa's largest country reported.

The mission said heavy fighting erupted in a government-stronghold southwest of Nyala in South Darfur following shooting at a camp for displaced persons at Kalma yesterday. And in West Darfur, the area of north Geneina has been declared a "no go" area for UN staff until further notice following an ambush on policemen yesterday.

The latest reports of fighting come only a day after the mission said aid workers were gradually returning to Tawila in Sudan's North Darfur region where rebels launched an attack last week in violation of ceasefire accords.

Meanwhile, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that it was providing vegetable seeds and gardening tools to 35,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households in Darfur, where nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced and Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers after the rebels took up arms last year to demand a greater share of the area's economic resources.

"We target poor farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds or have lost their seed stores due to the conflict," FAO Area Emergency Coordinator in North Darfur Sara McHattie said. "FAO-donated seeds will allow families to grow vegetables to improve their vitamin intake while also having some produce available for sale at market."

The agency will also help more than 5,000 displaced households save one of their main assets through the provision of veterinary supplies and vaccines for some 12,000 donkeys. Essential draught animals, donkeys are often the sole means of transport to water points and markets and, in the last year, have saved thousands of lives by carrying families and their belongings away from villages under attack.

"The loss of donkeys is a significant blow to families, not only today as they struggle to cope in the camps, but also tomorrow when they must return home and rebuild their lives without their most important asset," said Adam Salih, FAO Assistant Livestock Coordinator, based in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

The new project will raise the total number of households benefiting from FAO agricultural and livestock assistance to over 110,000. But FAO estimates that more than 330,000 households in Darfur currently need food and agricultural assistance. An additional $4.9 million has been pledged by donors and more funding is expected, but the precarious security situation in the region has severely limited access to many in crisis-hit areas.



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