Rape a way of life for Darfur's womenStory Highlights
Women and girls as young as four face rape on daily basis in Darfur
U.N. mission says rape now biggest issue facing troubled Sudanese region
Aid workers says 100 percent of women in camps face gender-based abuse
Sudanese government says there is no rape in Darfur
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From CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson
ZAM ZAM DISPLACEMENT CAMP, Sudan (CNN) -- Sudan's Darfur crisis has exploded on many fronts -- violence, hunger, displacement and looting -- but United Nations peacekeepers say the biggest issue now affecting the region is the systematic rape of women and children.
UNAMID police officer Ajayi Funmi, left, educates Darfur women about rape.
Thousands of women -- as young as four -- caught in the middle of the struggle between rebel forces and government-backed militias have become victims of rape, they say, with some aid groups claiming it is being used as a weapon of ethnic cleansing.
"That is one of the biggest issues in Darfur -- the rapes, and crimes against women and children," says Michael Fryer, UNAMID's police commissioner, the United Nations peacekeeping force deployed to try to tackle the violence.
Relief workers say they are powerless to stop the attacks and they say if they do speak out they fear the Sudanese government will tell them to leave the country.
Humanitarian group Refugees International in a report last year said rape was "an integral part of the pattern of violence that the government of Sudan is inflicting upon the targeted ethnic groups in Darfur."
Some relief workers say almost 100 percent of women living in aid camps have been raped or become victims of gender-based violence, with many teenagers forced by militiamen to have sex multiple times while running regular errands such as collecting firewood. Watch women face dangers in Darfur »
They say the situation has now become so bad, many women are now resigned to rape attacks as a way of life and men are unwilling to accompany them because they fear they will be killed if they try to defend them.
But despite the extent of the abuse, the Sudanese government insists there is no problem, adding to the difficulties faced by the victims who are often ostracized by their communities or fall foul of a legal system seen as favoring their attackers.
"There is no rape in Darfur," says Mohammad Hassan Awad, a Humanitarian Aid Commissioner for West Darfur, who accuses foreign aid workers of persuading people in refugee camps to make false claims.
While few aid workers dispute the extent of the attacks against women, they say survivors are unwilling to come forward -- but those that do reveal shocking levels of abuse.
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"She said they removed their scarves and used it to tie them up and were taking turns to rape them -- one is 13 years old the other one is 16 years," says Ajayi Funmi of the UNAMID police, who is trying to educate women told CNN after talking to two girls.
Making matters worse, aid workers say scores of babies conceived through rape are being dumped by their mothers.
"Abandoned babies are reported but because of the stigma attached to it there is no detailed report because the women don't come forward," says Dr Naqib Safi of the U.N. children's body UNICEF.
As many as 20 babies a month are being dumped in one camp of 22,000 people.
With both U.N. officials calling for more female officers to better educate women against rape and women saying they won't feel safe until the under-equipped and undermanned United Nations force is strong enough to protect them, the situation shows little sign of