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Frontline Diary

18 May 2004: Providing relief in Darfur

© UNICEF USA/2004/Thomas
Julianna Lindsey of UNICEF's Humanitarian Response Unit.

Julianna Lindsey, of UNICEF’s Humanitarian Response Unit, is travelling through Sudan’s Darfur region.  The unit she works for helps organize UNICEF’s activities in emergency areas.  Here’s the first of her diary entries giving her personal view on what is happening there.

DARFUR, 18 May 2004— We visited Mornei Camp in West Darfur today, where UNICEF is supporting water and education projects.  On the way to the camp, we passed two villages that had been destroyed by the Janjaweed, armed militiamen on horses or camels who have been wreaking havoc throughout Darfur.  It seems that fewer villages are now being destroyed, but the people who fled their villages are living in horrible conditions.  We actually saw two of the Janjaweed on camelback – it seemed strange to see these men in uniforms with guns riding camels through the scrubby desert landscape.

In the school at Mornei, I talked to several women who teach there. They are from the local town of Mornei, which has sheltered many of the people displaced by this fighting. I could tell they must be locals because they were neatly dressed, clean, and carried handbags, whereas the displaced people usually have only the clothes they wore when they fled their villages – and the women certainly don’t carry handbags!

The women told me that they are very concerned about the children in their classrooms because they are traumatized by what they have seen.  It’s hard for them to know how to assist the children, though. UNICEF has organized some orientation sessions for teachers on how to deal with traumatized children, but we still need to reach many more teachers.

We also visited the government Water and Environmental Sanitation team in Mornei Camp. UNICEF has recently helped them build a base camp there and extra staffers were sent from Khartoum to teach people how to build latrines. We’re very worried about a possible cholera outbreak once the rainy season arrives, so while at Mornei we decided to increase the number
of latrines we provide to the camp.

We’ve also attended several coordination meetings in Geneina, covering everything from distributing blankets and plastic sheeting to health issues and nutrition surveys. Our field staff spend lots of time talking to other organizations to find out what everyone else is doing, and also to share information about our activities.

We still have a long way to go in West Darfur – so many people still don’t have proper health care or enough clean drinking water. I can see that the UNICEF staff are working incredibly hard, in tough conditions though.  The temperature hovers around 115 Fahrenheit, everyone lives and works in a two-room office, and the needs are overwhelming. The Resident Programme
Officer in charge of our Geneina base is optimistic, though. Abdulkader Musse, who transferred here from UNICEF’s Ethiopia country office to help during this crisis, says that his team can accomplish so much more if they receive more support – they need experts in health, water, education, and protection.



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