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UN appeals for urgent humanitarian assistance in north Darfur

afrol News, 25 May - The hybrid African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has condemned heavy fighting in the Sudanese town of Umm Baru which has left over 50 people injured and forced hundreds to flee their homes.

According to a news release issued by the Mission, the Sudanese government forces clashed with armed elements of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) for several hours yesterday in the town, which is located about 100 kilometres from the Chadian border in the far west of North Darfur state.

Explosions were also reported in the area after government planes flew overhead last night, the mission added in a statement.

UNAMID peacekeepers based at a camp near Umm Baru reported that at least 53 people have been seriously injured and need evacuation for further medical treatment. The casualties include civilians, government soldiers and JEM members, the mission said.

"About 350 civilians - mainly women, children and the elderly - and 100 unarmed Sudanese soldiers and members of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi (SLA/MM), a pro-government faction, are currently taking refuge near the UNAMID camp," the statement added.

The mission stressed that urgent humanitarian aid, particularly food, water, medical supplies and tents, was needed to help civilians displaced by the fighting. UNAMID has treated some of the wounded, and is on standby to evacuate those needing further medical care.

The UNAMID chief, Rodolphe Adada, condemned yesterday's fighting, and urged all parties to the Darfur conflict to seek a peaceful resolution to their differences.

Yesterday's clashes follow an incident earlier this month in which JEM armed elements attacked Sudanese government forces based near the town of Kornoi, located between Umm Baru and the Chadian border.

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes in more than five years of fighting in Darfur, pitting rebels against government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.

Meanwhile, spotlighting some of the major challenges facing African nations today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to supporting the people of the continent in building durable peace, security and sustainable development.

Mr Ban made the pledge in a message for Africa Day, which marks the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU).

Drawing attention to the devastating effect of the ongoing economic downturn on the continent, the Secretary-General urged the international community not to step back from its commitments.

“At the very time when Africa has achieved several years of sustained economic growth and improved stability, the global economic crisis is having a severe impact. We must protect the continent''s poorest and most vulnerable people,” he stated.

Another threat to Africa's development is climate change, he said, emphasising the importance of countries to “seal a deal” and reach agreement in Copenhagen this December on a new global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“If we work hard, and agree on deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, we can avoid some of the worst consequences - but not all of them,” said Mr Ban. “That is why we must also support adaptation, especially for the poor, who will suffer first - and worst.”

The UN chief also pointed to what he described as “a troubling re-emergence of unconstitutional changes of government” on the continent.

“This reminds us not only of the need to support democratisation, but to strengthen Africa''s capacity to maintain peace and security,” he stressed.

Toward that goal, he said, the UN Security Council is building a closer working relationship with the AU Peace and Security Council. The world body is also moving ahead with the UN Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme in support of the AU, especially in providing technical support for AU peacekeeping.

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