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"We Could See Villages Burning Along the Road"
March 15, 2004
A French nurse and a Canadian logistician, volunteers with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have just returned from nearly two months as a two-person team in the town of Mornay, located in the Darfur region of Sudan. In the region of Mornay there have been attacks for some months, and the two volunteers cared for 80 wounded, as medical transfers outside Mornay were impossible for security reasons. In Darfur, MSF has seen about 115,000 displaced people among an estimated population of 600,000. People are living in exceedingly poor conditions, in a situation of extreme violence.
"There has been an incredible change in Darfur in the past two months. When we first went, we could see villages burning all along the road. People were fleeing with their belongings and those who couldn't walk were left behind. We drove some older people to Mornay. On our way back two months later, there wasn't a single house left and there was hardly anyone left between Zalinge and El Genina. The area had been emptied.
Before these tragic events, Mornay was a small town of about 3000 people. When we arrived in January, there were already close to 20,000 people and today there are at least 60,000. They are fleeing attacks on their villages, and some come from as far as 40 miles away."
"We received 80 wounded people, including children, that we had to take care of urgently. There were numerous bullet wounds. A vast majority of the wounded were civilians. In the first days of the attack, we received a woman with her three-month-old baby, both wounded by bullets. We tried to transfer her to El Genina hospital. The car in which she left was attacked by Janjaweed (militia); everyone except her and her baby were killed. She managed to reach the hospital and she and the baby are doing well. There are very few men among the displaced. Among the women, at least 17 were victims of rape. People are raped, beaten or killed. From what we could see, there are heavy massacres and violence in the region.
During the attacks around Mornay, we couldn't move out of the town, helicopters and bombings prevented it. We were just the two of us, one logistician and one nurse, to provide heavy health care to the wounded ... It is the first time I faced such a dilemma. As a nurse, I am not trained to do surgery or other medical tasks, but was it ethical not to do anything? So, we did all we could. We created a ward with 15 beds for the wounded, provided the displaced with some water, gave some basic essential items and started nutritional assistance.
The nutritional situation is worsening. We saw cattle dying in the streets. People have to go farther and farther away to get food, and because it is so dangerous, they go in groups of 50. When we arrived, about one-third of the families had stocks of Sorgo (a cultivated grain). But how long will it last? At first, we screened 4,000 children for malnutrition. Now there are more than 12,000. We are treating 300 severely malnourished children and providing supplementary food to 1,200 more. We are trying to reach villages where people say there are others with no assistance - up to 40,000 people in villages like Kerenik, Abila, Sisse, and Soulou that we couldn't reach but where others say the situation is terrible.
More assistance is urgently needed, and not only in Mornay, but throughout Darfur. The lack of water, lack of food, lack of basic items is a huge crisis and needs an emergency reaction. But aid agencies still haven't mobilized..."