|Women collect water from a well in the town of Kabkabia, North Darfur State.|
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 22 January 2007 – The violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan continues unabated amidst reports over the weekend of villages being heavily bombed in the north. Meanwhile, a joint statement issued on 17 January by a group of United Nations relief agencies, including UNICEF, has put the humanitarian crisis back in the spotlight.
UNICEF’s Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes, Pierrette Vu Thi, has just returned from northern Darfur, where she witnessed firsthand the deterioration of conditions for children and women.
During her four-day trip last week, Ms. Vu Thi visited – among other sites – the Al Salam Camp for people displaced by violence. The camp is located near El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State.
|Dr. Adam Musa examines an undernourished toddler at a UNICEF-supported, government-run nutrition centre in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State.|
Al Salam Camp is operating far over capacity, presently housing 45,000 people – including 20,000 who have arrived in the last six months. During her visit, Ms. Vu Thi spoke to camp residents, many from surrounding rural areas, about their ordeal and their needs.
Violence impairs relief efforts
“Most of the concerns that they expressed were the need for protection and security, and their desire to go home – which the situation at present does not allow,” she said. “They also mentioned the breakdown of traditional social norms in the camps and the lack of sources of livelihood for themselves.”
Ms. Vu Thi met with women’s groups as well. “Their foremost concern is protection against violence – particularly when they have to go out of the camps to fetch wood and they get attacked. There have been many cases of rape,” she noted.
Rape, pillage and killings remain a daily fixture of life in Darfur, terrorizing the local population. Now in its fourth year, the crisis has claimed more than 200,000 lives and driven more than 2 million people from their homes.
Darfur has one of the world’s largest aid operations, but violence and insecurity have severely impaired relief efforts. The UN agencies’ joint statement on Darfur indicated that humanitarian access to people in need is more difficult than at any time since April 2004.
|Osman Idris Abu Bakar, 9, does homework with his brother at their home in the Abu Shouk Camp for displaced people near El Fasher, North Darfur.|
‘A sense of hope’
After her visit to the Al Salam Camp, Ms. Vu Thi visited Sag el Naam village. Located 45 km east of El Fasher, the community lives under the control of a rebel group that has signed the Darfur peace agreement. The camp became accessible to UNICEF six months ago.
“UNICEF works directly with community leaders to provide humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable populations of the village in the areas of health, water and basic education,” Ms. Vu Thi says, adding that aid programmes in the village constitute a success story.
“Working with this community,” she continues, “does give a sense of hope that the people of Darfur will be able to recover and take back their lives into their own hands when the present conflict ends – and when the internally displaced people are able to return home.”
22 January 2007:
UNICEF Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes Pierrette Vu Thi discusses the humanitarian crisis in North Darfur, where she recently visited.
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Mia Farrow’s Darfur video diary [with video]
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Requiem for Darfur website
(external link, opens in a new window)