The situation is worsening in Darfur, the western Sudan region where a conflict began in 2003. Renewed violence has led to reduced assistance to people in the area. Dr. Denis Lemasson, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) program director, has just returned from Sudan with a disturbing report.
What form has this new outbreak of violence taken in Sudan?
An MSF nurse looks for vulnerable patients in the crowd waiting outside the health clinic. They are IDPs from the Fur tribe. Photo © Lucy Clayton
At least five international aid workers have been killed over the last three weeks. MSF has experienced four major incidents. While I was visiting Mornay, a team arrived. They had been attacked and beaten on the road and their car struck by gunfire. The team was lucky to make it back.
How has this affected the population?
After that incident, we were forced to suspend traveling on the road to El Geneina. If a patient were to arrive in Mornay today and needed an operation, we would not be able to transfer that person. We have also had to suspend the work of our mobile clinics that serve the nomadic population. In other locations, we have had to evacuate entire teams. We can't expose them to the risk of being killed.
A mother and newborn child at the local hospital in El Geneina. Photo © Erik Refner
Has international aid been reduced?
International aid was already inadequate relative to the needs and is declining, particularly in the displaced persons' camps. Over the last year, we have observed reduced funding, a shrinking number of aid actors, and a refocusing of programs from emergency needs to development. In May alone, the World Food Program (WFP) cut its food distributions by half, which threatens to worsen an already dangerous food situation. Current water distribution is inadequate. Health care needs are also great, both in terms of consultations and hospital care for emergency cases. On top of that, if security problems result in the closure of programs and the departure of other actors, basic survival needs will not be met. That is why we are asking today that all armed actors in the field not interfere with the work of humanitarian aid organizations.