( AFP ) - Top children's writers including Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling have signed an open letter calling on world leaders to take urgent action over Darfur to protect the stricken region's children.
The letter by the 15 authors, also including Judy Blume and Cornelia Funke, was released Saturday ahead of Sunday's Global Day For Darfur organised by rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
"Children barely old enough to walk, let alone run, have seen their homes burnt and razed to the ground, their mothers raped and their fathers killed," the letter read.
"Most are now holed up in sprawling camps, traumatised and living in fear.
"It is time to change the narrative. It is time to tell a different story. This April, many children in Darfur will be reaching their fifth birthdays without ever having known peace.
"The world needs to wake up. For too long, it has let these children suffer. Our politicians need to act on Darfur."
The writers conclude: "The world needs to act now to give the children of Darfur a future."
They also call for an immediate ceasefire, full deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force and support for a "just" peace process.
Other authors who have signed the letter include Gillian Cross, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo and Daniel Pennac.
Organisers say they expect thousands of people worldwide to gather Sunday to mark five years of the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The event is supported by celebrities like US actors George Clooney and Matt Damon.
At least 200,000 people have died and 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict erupted in 2003, the UN says. Sudan's government puts the number of deaths at 9,000.
The conflict began when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Sudanese regime and Arab militia.