Mornay Camp, West Darfur State, Sudan: No relief in sight

People also wait in vain for assistance while there is little to suggest it will arrive in time and in quantities sufficient to prevent large-scale calamity. To feed people in Mornay alone would require 1,200 tons of food every month. Transport alone would require 80 roundtrips every month on sandy roads with trucks designed to carry 10 tons carrying 15. As the rainy season begins, the roads will be even more difficult to navigate. Meeting the food needs of all of West Darfur's 600,000 displaced persons would require 300 tons a day while only half that amount seems to arrive in West Darfur. MSF graphs: Click on images for full size AGE: CAUSE OF DEATH: MALNUTRITION: The 80,000 displaced Sudanese civilians living in Mornay camp had fled from 111 villages throughout West Darfur State that had been looted and burnt to the ground by pro-government militias, with the vast majority of people arriving between September 2003 and February 2004. According to a recent survey carried out by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Epicentre, one out of every 20 people - 5% of the original population of these villages - was killed in such attacks. While this average is appalling, particularly ferocious large-scale killings occurred in 11 villages between November 2003 and February 2004. The killers primarily targeted men, who accounted for three out of every four deaths. Women and children were also killed, with more than 75% of the deaths among women and 50% of the deaths among children due to violence. Survival for many of the weakest children and elderly today depends on traumatized and exhausted mothers and girls while essential survival items like food, drinking water and shelters are distributed irregularly and in insufficient quantities. Up to 200 people already die every month in Mornay from violent acts, starvation and disease. People continue to live in perpetual fear of new killings and rapes because the same militiamen who conducted the scorched-earth attacks on their villages control the periphery of Mornay camp. The men who survived the initial killing spree cannot leave without risking death, while women who dare venture out to gather items like wood and grass have been exposed to beatings and rapes. Nearly 14% of the 132 victims of violence treated by medical teams from MSF over the last nine weeks were victims of sexual violence. Because of cultural mores, many cases of rape have most likely gone unreported. People also wait in vain for assistance while there is little to suggest it will arrive in time and in quantities sufficient to prevent large-scale calamity. To feed people in Mornay alone would require 1,200 tons of food every month. Transport alone would require 80 roundtrips every month on sandy roads with trucks designed to carry 10 tons carrying 15. As the rainy season begins, the roads will be even more difficult to navigate. Meeting the food needs of all of West Darfur's 600,000 displaced persons would require 300 tons a day while only half that amount seems to arrive in West Darfur. The ongoing attacks around the camps make people entirely dependent on external aid that is inadequate and irregular. Because of acute shortages of food, one child of every five in Mornay suffers from acute malnutrition. MSF has treated nearly 5,000 children in feeding centers - 1,000 for severe acute malnutrition and 4,000 for moderate acute malnutrition. Since early 2004, the camp's residents have received, on average, less than 1,000 kcal/day, not even half of the 2,500 kcal daily ration needed to survive. The World Food Program (WFP) distributed a half-ration in February, a complete ration in late April and another in mid-June 2004, but the distributions lacked critical micronutrients like iron, vitamins B1 and B2, and niacin. In order to better protect children under five, three times MSF has distributed 15,000 rations that increase every family member's food rations by 25%. Until December 2003, Mornay was a village of 5,000 people. With the arrival of 75,000 displaced people, drinking water needs have far outstripped the village's capacity. MSF distributes 500,000 liters of drinking water per day, or five to seven liters/person/day, which is well short of the minimum standard of 20 liters/day to meet all needs. Water shortages have led to interminable lines at distribution ramps, adding considerably to the workload of girls and women. Latrines are rare in the camp because geologic conditions make them difficult to build. In a few days, or weeks at most, heavy rains will begin and excrement will flow across the entire site. Mortality from diarrhea, which today represents one-third of the deaths, will only increase. The shelters are pitiful as well. The recent distribution of one sheet of plastic per family of five will not prevent respiratory infections, always one of the leading causes of death for children living in such conditions, from increasing. And given that rainwater tends to stagnate in such terrain, mosquito breeding sites will likely swell. The seasonal malaria peak, well known to the region's residents and doctors, will inevitably bring severe anemia and death to children as well as adults. Since February 2004, 15,000 children under the age of five, or 95%, have been vaccinated against measles. MSF teams conducted 15,000 medical consultations with 400 hospitalizations. But this only represents a small fraction of the medical needs. Because there is not enough medical and paramedical staff, only one-third of pediatric consultations and an even smaller fraction of adult consultations have been carried out. Authorities recently announced that they want people in Mornay to return to their home villages as quickly as possible. In Zalinge, 70 kilometers from Mornay, camp officials have been pressured by local authorities to return to their villages in the hope that many residents would follow them. Salaries of reluctant officials are being cut off while others have been threatened with arrest. Without genuine guarantees of safety or the means to survive, people now live in fear of being displaced yet again back to villages that have been completely destroyed. Aid organizations are being asked to conduct their activities in observance of this policy and to encourage the people to return. Relief workers, already overwhelmed by the catastrophic situation in the existing camps, would have to spread out across multiple villages. It is impossible for community life and farming activities to resume on such short notice in such devastated places, especially as the rainy season begins. Many people witnessed family members and friends being killed before their eyes, and some have not yet been able to bury the corpses. Mornay is one of the first sites in the Darfur where aid is being deployed, but the assistance is still inadequate. Many officials, both Sudanese and foreign, have visited and often cite the camp as an example of an effective aid response. Each visit brings promises of protection and assistance, but people are still waiting desperately for the promises to translate into action. In several instances, official visits have yielded grotesquely staged aid operations, with the objective of satisfying the visitors' political and public relations needs. After the intense violence to which people have been subjected, many in Mornay perceive the ongoing attacks, food shortages, and threats of renewed displacement as the continuation of a policy aimed at destroying them as a group and severely exploiting the survivors after resettlement. Such beliefs, even if only perceptions, have damaged people's psychological well being and further erodes their ability to survive. Those who have fled to Mornay represent less than 10% of people displaced by a war waged against civilians in Darfur. The events directly affect an estimated one million people and indirectly affect several hundreds of thousands more, especially in terms of food security, while more than 190,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring Chad. Promoting various political interests must give way to a massive mobilization of assistance on the national and international levels. As presently designed, the relief operation falls dramatically short of the needs and will not succeed in preventing an entirely man-made famine from wiping out tens of thousands of lives across Sudan's Darfur region.