The search for refuge
29 October 2004
Although the people driven from their villages have gathered in "sites"10 which they believe to be safer, there is no real refuge for this traumatised population. People continue to be the target of different forms of violence and intimidation: murders, assaults, and rapes. In the MSF survey of 900 families carried out in Kass in South Darfur in September 2004, violence was the second most important reported cause of death in persons over 5 years of age in the previous four months. 53% of these deaths had occurred since arrival in the place of "refuge". The situation in Darfur perverts the very idea of refuge. People escape the attackers once, yet they cannot find real safety. Constant insecurity and harassment, as well as lack of basic essentials for survival, mean that many displaced people are continuously on the move, abandoning one place and trying desperately to establish a place of safety in another. Over the last seven months, the great majority of displaced people have been displaced several times, often within a short period. People walk for hours from one village to another to find a place where they can settle. But neither the roads nor the places of settlement are safe. Although the level of violence is not the same in the places of refuge as it was in the places of origin, there are still an unacceptable number of incidents occurring in many places where the displaced have sought shelter. This general climate of insecurity generates further displacement and aggravates the vulnerability of the population. In general, people create their own relative security by gathering in certain locations, mainly major urban centres, where sudden surges in population numbers and density completely outstrips the local capacity leading to a host of medical concerns. In Kalma camp for instance, the estimated population in June 2004 was around 26,000 people. Over a two-week period, the camp doubled in size due to a population influx mainly from West Darfur11. In September 2004, the population figure was 66,000 people. Those newly arrived had left their villages of origin several months before and stopped in several locations before they reached the camp. After such prolonged distress migration without access to assistance, the health and nutritional status of the newcomers on arrival is disastrous. The constant increasing of camp population numbers has led to a sustained inability for the insufficient aid programming to control the public health crisis and continuing high levels of malnutrition and disease.