Catastrophe in Darfur: Unmet promises and continuing violence

Although the amount of aid has increased during the last six months, it is still insufficient and often of poor quality. Mass displacement, precarious living conditions and food shortages have a serious impact on the health status of the population.

It has been six months since Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) briefed the Security Council on the massive suffering and death toll which had resulted from militia, attacks on villages and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents in the Darfur region of Sudan. 

Despite several resolutions and pledges since that time, neither the Government of Sudan nor the international community has provided sufficient assistance and security to the people in Darfur.

Over 18 months since they were burned out of their villages and after numerous promises from the Government of Sudan and world leaders, people's lives are still under daily threat.

The people of Darfur have endured a vicious campaign of violence and terror which has led to massive deaths and forced more than 1.5 million people to flee from their destroyed villages in search of safety. At the beginning of November, MSF released a report, which shows the pervasiveness of the violence and the appalling consequences of the atrocities committed against people in Darfur.

In makeshift settlements throughout Darfur displaced people tell MSF that they are living under the guard of some of the same armed men that burned their villages and killed their families. They are too scared to go home and yet frightened to remain where they are, often they have moved from one place to another in order to find some safety.

People still face intimidation, extortion and terror in areas where they have sought refuge from the violence. Over the past weeks there have also been incidents of forced and violent relocation of displaced people. This is in violation of the agreement on voluntary relocation signed between the Government of Sudan and the International Organisation for Migration.

MSF clinics receive new rape cases everyday. Hundreds of these women have been brave enough to come forward and tell us what happened. In one clinic serving a small camp, 20 women came to us and reported that they were raped within the last four weeks. There is no doubt; these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg.

Although the amount of aid has increased during the last six months, it is still insufficient and often of poor quality. Mass displacement, precarious living conditions and food shortages have a serious impact on the health status of the population.

In addition to violence, the main reported causes of deaths are diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections and malaria.

The high incidences of these diseases are preventable and are traced to the lack of adequate shelter and appalling water and sanitation conditions in the camps. MSF is working in 26 locations and other agencies in many more, however there are countless pockets of displaced settlements, which still have not received any food or relief aid.

The continued violence against the displaced people has also been accompanied by attacks on aid workers. Several staff of aid organisations has been killed in government and SLA controlled areas in recent weeks. In addition, MSF teams have been attacked and robbed on several occasions.

This has a major impact on the already limited aid being transported to the rural areas in Darfur. Simple life saving interventions such as measles vaccinations is often not possible.

The international community has pledged to help the victims of this crisis with assistance and protection. The assistance still needs to improve so people in Darfur receive adequate food, clean water and shelter.

More importantly, security and safety need to be put in place for the effective delivery of assistance and welfare of the population. No party in this crisis has taken adequate measures to ensure the cessation of violence against civilians in spite of the many assurances made.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Rowan Gillies

President,
Médecins Sans Frontières International Council