Aid to Displaced People in South Darfur Remains Insufficient

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
Click to hide Text

New Surveys Reveal Precarious Health and Nutritional Situations

New York, September 27, 2004 - Epidemiological surveys newly completed by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in South Darfur, Sudan, reveal that the overall level and quality of aid remains insufficient. In Kalma camp near Nyala, where an estimated 66,000 people fleeing violence have sought shelter and where MSF is treating 3,900 malnourished children, the survey found malnutrition and mortality rates well above emergency levels. MSF warns that without increased mobilization of aid to South Darfur, the health and nutritional situations in the region could deteriorate further.

"It is a disgrace that just minutes from the international airport in Nyala, up to 66,000 displaced people continue to live without adequate food or sanitation," says Vince Hoedt, coordinator of MSF's programs in South Darfur. "The people in Kalma camp are completely dependent on food distributions that are irregular and insufficient. More people fleeing ongoing violence in the region continue to arrive. Despite the presence of aid organizations in the camp, the international community and the government of Sudan have not been able to meet the basic needs," said Hoedt. MSF is providing healthcare and nutritional support in Kalma camp, but more help is urgently required to prevent the situation from getting worse.

The epidemiological survey was conducted in Kalma camp from September 2nd to 6th, 2004. MSF found that 23.6% of children under five years of age were malnourished and 3.3% so severely malnourished that immediate help is necessary to prevent them from dying. A retrospective mortality survey conducted simultaneously revealed that in the past seven months approximately 2,500 people had died, of which 1,100 were children under the age of five. These figures are well above emergency threshold levels. Estimates over the last month do not show any improvement, despite increased access to health resources in Kalma camp. The largest single cause of death in Kalma camp is diarrhea but violence was responsible for 57% of deaths in adults.

Last month, MSF conducted an epidemiological survey in Kass, where an estimated 78,000 people live, and found a high number of deaths over the past months, especially among children under the age of five. In Muhajariya, 90 kilometers east of Nyala, a survey found less malnutrition but the estimated 13,000 displaced people were newly arrived, having just fled ongoing violence in the region. 81% of recent adult deaths in this population were from violence. With few possessions and no food reserves, their situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not deployed.

"Displaced people in South Darfur continue to live on the edge. They feel unsafe and are afraid to return to their homes because of ongoing violence, and more people are arriving every day in Kalma and Muhajariya," said Hoedt. "Food distributions have managed to stave off the worst for now, but the situation remains precarious and unless aid is increased and maintained over the long term, preventable deaths from disease and malnutrition will continue."

MSF currently has over 200 international aid workers working alongside 2,000 national staff in 26 locations throughout Darfur. An additional 35 international staff are caring for refugees from Darfur in neighboring Chad. MSF medical teams are conducting medical consultations, treating victims of violence, caring for severely and moderately malnourished children, improving water and sanitation conditions, and providing blanket feedings and other essential items for more than 700,000 displaced people.