|© UNICEF Chad/240/Page|
|A Sudanese refugee girl carries firewood at the Farachana refugee camp in eastern Chad.|
DARFUR, 17 May 2004— The one million people displaced from their homes in Sudan’s Darfur region are at grave risk, with child malnutrition above 20 per cent overall, and as high as 80 per cent in some localities. Girls and women are especially vulnerable. The UN reports that many have been raped and assaulted as they fetched water and firewood. Many displaced people say they fear for their safety if they leave the camps where they have taken refuge.
Humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF are alarmed at the poor levels of sanitation at the camps and are calling for increased efforts to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who still haven’t received aid or basic social services. A recent UN assessment team found that security and safety is a dominant concern for displaced people, and called on the Sudanese government to help humanitarian organizations reach them.
Months of vicious attacks have caused massive migrations, with many people fleeing their home villages. More than one hundred thousand people have fled into neighbouring Chad to seek safety from the fighting. The refugees say they are the victims of ethnic cleansing and have accused the Sudanese government of using the Janjaweed militia to drive out the local African population.
UNICEF and other partners are working to improve conditions for the refugees, many of whom have been maimed and traumatised. Tens of thousands of children have been vaccinated against meningitis in northern Darfur and a major measles vaccination campaign aims to protect 2.6 million children against the potentially deadly disease. Clean water is desperately needed and UNICEF is repairing hundreds of hand pumps in Darfur as well as boring holes for new wells.
UNICEF has also set up 164 temporary classrooms for displaced children. The classrooms are constructed of locally available materials – often woven reeds with thatched roofs. 284 classroom kits have been supplied to the temporary classes, as well as to pre-existing schools that have taken in extra students because of the crisis. UNICEF has also provided 120 sports kits to children in the region’s camps.
Humanitarian relief is all the more urgent because the start of the rainy season in the next few weeks will make many roads impassable.
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