The most incredible international story
of the past week came from a United Nations media release
on Friday night. It was given a run on page eight of yesterday’s SMH but has not generally received much media attention. In
brief, the UN is halving the rations for Darfur’s
refugees. The SMH reports:

The UN’s World Food Program
announced on Friday it was being forced to cut the present rations in Darfur from 2100 calories a day to 1050 calories. The
reduced portions equal about half the minimum daily calories necessary to
maintain health in an adult.

“This is one of the hardest
decisions I have ever made,” said the program’s director, James Morris.
“Haven’t the people of Darfur
suffered enough?”

The World Food Program says the
cut is necessary because it has received just a third of the $US746
million
($983 million) it had requested from donor nations for all of its
operations in
Sudan. The United States is the largest donor by far, giving
$US188 million to the emergency food program. Norway, Ireland, Italy,
Switzerland, and Belgium donated a total of $US5.5 million and Canada
gave $US3.9 million.

The only Muslim nation
contributing to the emergency feeding program is Libya, with a donation of $US4.5 million. The
rest of the money came from a special UN humanitarian fund and from individual
and corporate donors.

Channel 7’s Sunrise this morning
ran a segment on George Clooney touring Sudan
and interviewed a local Oxfam worker, but I heard no mention of the UN rations
cut. The Oxfam worker made a plea for more troops to protect the refugees.
Another UN release on Friday said all relief work in northern Sudan
would stop immediately if the Sudanese Liberation Army didn’t stop their
attacks on humanitarian workers – a threat that’s hardly going to worry the SLA.

Nothing much has changed in Darfur lately. Lots
of people are killed, the refugee numbers continue to rise. UN officials and
an occasional Western politician have come and gone but the outrage continues.

ABC TV’s Compass program on
Sunday night ran a documentary about Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general in
charge of the UN mission when Rwanda
descended into evil. You can get a taste of his predicament here. In part, it was yet another failure by the UN and various governments.

Dallaire was shown returning to Rwanda.
He addressed a university, telling the Rwandans the great powers ignored their
plight because their country was not of strategic importance (unlike Yugoslavia),
that their conflict was mere African tribalism (unlike the clash of great religions
in Yugoslavia),
that they were not white (unlike Yugoslavia)
and that there were too many of them anyway.

I guess Darfur’s pretty much like that
too.

Peter Fray

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