Support continues for Darfur refugees despite fighting

By staff writers
2 Dec 2006

Support continues for Darfur refugees despite fighting

-02/12/06

Development and church organisations in north Darfur continue with emergency work in spite of heavy fighting there. They are helping to provide aid to some of the millions of people who have been displaced and are now living in camps.

El Fasher is the capital of north Darfur, a dusty bustling desert town. It has been a magnet for people displaced by the conflict, which has been raging in Darfur since 2003.

Close to 200,000 people are crammed into three camps which surround the town. The Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), which is supported by uk-based Christian Aid and similar agencies, works in all three providing sanitation and health services.

The town of Zamzam, south of El Fasher, now hosts some 45,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in a settlement which is effectively an extension of the town. And for the first time there is a clinic, which provides health services to both Zamzamís residents and IDPs.

The solid brick compound boasts a delivery room, a ward, examination rooms, a laboratory and a vaccination room with a freezer powered by solar panels.

"This is a historic development for these people," says Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, SUDOís chairperson. "They have never had a clinic or schools before. We do development work at the same time as emergency work. We also train people here so that they can manage after we have left."

The IDPs are in a desperate state, totally dependent on food aid and too fearful to return home. There has been fierce fighting north of El Fasher in recent days and the Sudanese army has dug trenches around their camps in town.

Halima Abdulrahman Mamoud, aged 25, has been living in one of the camps for three years with her husband and children. They arrived after the government-back militia, the Janjaweed, attacked their village: "We ran and did not look back," she explains.

One of Halimaís children died in the camp of a chest infection. Mortality rates are high, especially during the winter months when there is searing heat in the day and dramatically low temperatures at night.

"Most children suffer from respiratory diseases," says Dr Ikram Mohammed, SUDOís permanent doctor in the camp. "We lose many children this way."

The IDPs are adamant they will not return home until they feel sure they will not be attacked; most say the only guarantee they will accept is a UN peacekeeping force.

The mandate of the current peacekeepers drawn from the African Union expires at the end of December. Although there is now talk of sending a hybrid UN-AU force, the government of Sudan has been sending out mixed signals. It has already rejected plans to replace the AU force with a UN force but has left the door open for an increase in the number of the AU troops and logistical support.

Development and church organisations in north Darfur continue with emergency work in spite of heavy fighting there. They are helping to provide aid to some of the millions of people who have been displaced and are now living in camps.

El Fasher is the capital of north Darfur, a dusty bustling desert town. It has been a magnet for people displaced by the conflict, which has been raging in Darfur since 2003.

Close to 200,000 people are crammed into three camps which surround the town. The Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), which is supported by uk-based Christian Aid and similar agencies, works in all three providing sanitation and health services.

The town of Zamzam, south of El Fasher, now hosts some 45,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in a settlement which is effectively an extension of the town. And for the first time there is a clinic, which provides health services to both Zamzamís residents and IDPs.

The solid brick compound boasts a delivery room, a ward, examination rooms, a laboratory and a vaccination room with a freezer powered by solar panels.

"This is a historic development for these people," says Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, SUDOís chairperson. "They have never had a clinic or schools before. We do development work at the same time as emergency work. We also train people here so that they can manage after we have left."

The IDPs are in a desperate state, totally dependent on food aid and too fearful to return home. There has been fierce fighting north of El Fasher in recent days and the Sudanese army has dug trenches around their camps in town.

Halima Abdulrahman Mamoud, aged 25, has been living in one of the camps for three years with her husband and children. They arrived after the government-back militia, the Janjaweed, attacked their village: "We ran and did not look back," she explains.

One of Halimaís children died in the camp of a chest infection. Mortality rates are high, especially during the winter months when there is searing heat in the day and dramatically low temperatures at night.

"Most children suffer from respiratory diseases," says Dr Ikram Mohammed, SUDOís permanent doctor in the camp. "We lose many children this way."

The IDPs are adamant they will not return home until they feel sure they will not be attacked; most say the only guarantee they will accept is a UN peacekeeping force.

The mandate of the current peacekeepers drawn from the African Union expires at the end of December. Although there is now talk of sending a hybrid UN-AU force, the government of Sudan has been sending out mixed signals. It has already rejected plans to replace the AU force with a UN force but has left the door open for an increase in the number of the AU troops and logistical support.

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