Emergency in Darfur, Sudan: No Relief in Sight

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Khartoum, June 21, 2004 - After surviving massacres carried out by pro-government militias on their villages, displaced civilians in Darfur, Sudan continue to endure violent attacks and rapes around the areas in which they have gathered and face a devastating shortage of assistance, according to the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Relief operations throughout the region fall far short of the massive needs, and as currently designed will not succeed in preventing an entirely man-made famine from wiping out tens of thousands of lives throughout the region.

A recent survey conducted by MSF and the epidemiological research center Epicentre in the town of Mornay, West Darfur State, where nearly 80,000 people have sought refuge, found that one in 20 people were killed in scorched earth attacks on 111 villages from September 2003 until February 2004. Adult men were the primary victims, but women and children were also killed. Today, one in five children in the camp are severely malnourished while irregular and insufficient food distributions do not come close to meeting the basic needs of people weakened by violence, displacement, and deprivation.

The same militias who carried out the initial attacks now control the camp's periphery, virtually imprisoning people who live in constant fear. Men risk being killed if they leave and women have been beaten and raped looking for food and other essential items outside the camp. In the past nine weeks, MSF medical teams have treated 132 victims of such violence.

The displaced have been entirely dependent on external aid for several months, but the assistance necessary for them to survive has not materialized. Already, 200 people die in Mornay every month, and there is nothing to indicate that assistance will arrive in time or in sufficient quantities to avoid a massive human catastrophe.

MSF has been working in Darfur since December 2003. Today, 90 international volunteers and nearly 2,000 Sudanese staff provide medical and nutritional care in areas with more than 400,000 displaced people. Medical teams conduct medical consultations and hospitalizations, treat victims of violence, and care for severely and moderately malnourished children. MSF teams also provide water, blanket feedings, and distribute other essential items. These activities are provided in Mornay, Zalingei, Nyertiti, Kerenik, El Genina, and Garsila in West Darfur; Nyala and Kass in South Darfur; and Kebkabiya in North Darfur. Additional teams provide assistance to Sudanese who have sought refuge in Chad in Adre, Birak and Tine, Iriba and Guereda.