After three years in which tens of thousands have died and 2.5 million have been displaced, the war in Darfur is growing ever more brutal. Most of the killing has been carried out by the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, which mounts deadly raids on villages and refugee camps, often with the help of Sudanese government soldiers. The U.S. accuses the Janjaweed and its backers of committing genocide against Darfur's black African population, while Sudan's government blames the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army for the violence. Caught in the middle is the African Union's 7,000-person force, which has unsuccessfully tried since 2004 to keep peace.
Instead the conflict has become a series of bloody, tribal-based turf wars that have spilled across the border into Chad. "There's terrible fragmentation in the conflict," says Matt Bryden of the International Crisis Group. "Whether you agree that genocide has happened or not up to now, the risk of it evolving in that direction is increasing dramatically."
The situation for refugees is desperate. Aid agencies that remain in the area now assist more than 3 million people--half of Darfur's population--but their work is limited by the continued fighting. The World Food Program said last week that it has received only one-third of the $746 million it needs to fight malnutrition in Darfur. It plans to halve the amount of food it distributes. Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s top humanitarian-aid official, says that because of the violence and shortfall in funds, the U.N. may have to halt some relief operations within weeks.
Despite mounting outrage about the crisis, the world has done little to try to stop it. The U.N. has proposed a 20,000-person peacekeeping force to take over from the African mission. But Khartoum says it will stop U.N. peacekeepers from working in Sudan, despite the threat of sanctions. Even if the government relents, U.N. troops aren't likely to arrive before October. Until then, there will be more bodies to bury in the soil of Darfur.