Renewed violence in North Darfur state forces MSF to evacuate from health centre

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has evacuated a nine-person team from the town of Korma, in North Darfur, due to a new surge of violence in the region. Over the weekend, the team treated 12 people with bullet wounds resulting from fighting. The renewed violence, which escalated on Sunday (Nov 22) around the town of Tawilla, occurred despite a ceasefire agreement between government and Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) forces. "The evacuation of the MSF medical team from Korma means that there is now extremely limited access to health care for the population in the area," says Dr Nathalie Civet, MSF's head of mission in the region. "Before fighting resumed this weekend, we had been setting up a health clinic in the town, since the previous medical facilities were looted and vandalised during fighting in March. There is now not only a lack of emergency care for those wounded during the ongoing violence, there is also a total absence of basic health care to deal with diseases such as diarrhea, malaria and respiratory infections. "When children are dying of these easily treatable illnesses, its incredibly frustrating that our medical work is being jeopardised by insecurity." Current MSF figures from projects in several locations across North Darfur show that 40% of deaths amongst children are due to diarrhea, which is simple to diagnose and cure. Three children died of cerebral malaria in Korma in the last fortnight, all of whom arrived too late to be treated successfully. There have also been some suspected polio cases in the region. MSF's mass vaccination campaign against measles has also been hindered by insecurity in North Darfur over recent months, although 42,000 children have now successfully received the life-saving vaccine. Measles can easily kill children who are already weak and malnourished. A recent suspected measles outbreak in the Jebel Si region has shown that vaccination coverage urgently needs to be improved. "Depending on the evolution of the conflict on the ground, we hope to return to Korma as soon as possible," says Civet. "We had only finished rebuilding and refurbishing the health centre a couple of weeks ago and have been giving medical consultations since then. We have trained a team of nurses and set up a pharmacy, so we are keen to get back to work as soon as security allows."