Massive Aid Urgently Needed in Darfur, Sudan

New York, February 16, 2004 - Displaced people in the Darfur region of western Sudan are in extreme danger, and the massive emergency aid needed to ensure their survival is lacking.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the few aid agencies providing aid in Darfur's accessible areas, but a team of six international volunteers cannot meet the needs of the nearly 100,000 displaced people they have encountered so far. In the last few days alone, 10,000 newly displaced arrived in Mornay in need of basic medical care, including 50 wounded who were treated at an MSF health center managed by a nurse and logistician. Several patients required emergency surgery, but it was delayed for 48 hours because security conditions prevented their transfer outside the city. Some 30,000 displaced have been in Mornay for several weeks.

MSF field teams notice catastrophic mortality rates among the displaced (more than 2 deaths per 10,000 people per day), which are related to both the displacement and the especially harsh living conditions. Many people arrived in towns with nothing, and those who did manage to bring some food quickly exhausted their supplies. The World Food Program's limited and inadequate distributions have not reached all of the sites where displaced people have gathered. MSF's team found a total 258 severely malnourished and 1,190 moderately malnourished children at several sites, but could only treat 144 severely malnourished and 350 moderately malnourished children in Mornay and Zalinge. Water is also urgently needed. Many of the displaced are living in makeshift shelters near riverbeds, or wadi, that are almost completely dried up because it is the middle of the dry season.

While officials estimate that nearly 600,000 people have been displaced in Darfur, the volume of assistance and the number of humanitarian aid organizations are still too weak. This dire situation can only be addressed by a massive mobilization of international agencies and with much broader access to the region. So far, there is still extremely limited access to the region for aid workers.

Since mid-December, a team of six international volunteers and several dozen Sudanese staff from MSF has been providing assistance to displaced people in Zalinge, Mornay and Nvertiti. Assessments have also been conducted in Bindisi, Dereish-Garcila and Mukjar.

MSF conducts nearly 100 consultations everyday in Zalinge and Mornay. A Therapeutic Feeding Center (TFC) is treating 144 severely malnourished children while 350 children receive treatment in Supplemental Feeding Centers (SFCs). MSF has also vaccinated 10,865 children for measles and provided essential items like blankets, jerry cans and soap to 1,400 families and 5,500 children under the age of 5.