Darfur: Children facing severe food shortages

© UNICEF/HQ05-09343/Haviv
Girls leave the Abu Shouk camp for displaced people near the city of El Fashir, capital of North Darfur, to gather firewood.

By Jane O’Brien

A new report by UNICEF - Child Alert Darfur – details the impact of conflict on children’s lives in the region. It reveals worsening conditions for the many who live outside the reach of humanitarian aid.

NEW YORK, USA, 19 December 2005 – For almost three years the children of Darfur have borne the brunt of a conflict that has forced millions to flee their homes. And in spite of continuing humanitarian aid, many are still facing severe food shortages and disease because of the ongoing insecurity.

Malnutrition rates in the last year have been halved among children living in camps which provide food, shelter and medical care. But an estimated 2.5 million people are not receiving any help because they live in isolated and dangerous areas. Children in these groups are dying from malnutrition and other preventable diseases.

“The children of Darfur are already living in a state of fear,” says UNICEF Emergency Communications Officer Gordon Weiss. “They have lost their homes and their families and suffered terrible abuses.

“Their land and way of life have been destroyed and are unable to support them. If the situation doesn’t change they have a very bleak future ahead of them.”

© UNICEF/HQ05-09348/Haviv
A woman on the road to the village of Selia, in West Darfur, carries her severely malnourished baby.

A temporary solution

For almost three years, marauding Janjaweed militia groups have driven Darfur villagers from their homes, stolen their cattle, destroyed wells and burnt buildings. The threat of violence continues, and villagers who are afraid to return home have flooded into urban areas and temporary camps.

An estimated 3.4 million people, equivalent to almost 51 per cent of the total population in the region, have been affected by the crisis in Darfur.

With food and water becoming scarce throughout the region, camps such as Abu Shouk on the outskirts of Darfur’s northern capital El Fashir are almost the only places where children and adults can receive life saving assistance.

At Abu Shouk, UNICEF and partners have provided health clinics and latrines, as well as schools for 13,000 primary aged children. Some 1.3 million children are living in 200 similar camps around Darfur and neighbouring parts of Chad.

“These camps were set up to provide immediate temporary care, but they are becoming permanent fixtures,” says Mr. Weiss. “Unless security is improved the people living here will not be able to return to their homes and begin producing their own food. Millions of others are already struggling to survive and the food shortages in Darfur are only going to get worse.”

More international aid will be needed for another five years simply to ensure the survival of Darfur’s children. Political solutions are needed to secure a future in which they can thrive.



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19 December 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on child malnutrition in Darfur.

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19 December 2005:
UNICEF Darfur representative Ted Chaiban outlines the Child Alert findings.

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