Darfur: Living in a nightmare

During the past year, brutal killings, rape and razed villages became all too common occurrences for the people of Sudan's western region of Darfur. Attacks carried out by government-backed militias known as Janjaweed terrorized civilians and forced them to flee to what they hoped would be safer locations. Yet after having survived massacres, raids and looting, the displaced still face continuing violence and a devastating shortage of assistance. By mid-2004, more than one million people had been driven from their homes. An additional 180,000 people had sought safety in Chad (see page 23). More than 200 international MSF volunteers and 2,000 NATIONAL STAFF: members are working in an area where approximately 700,000 people have sought refuge, helping those weakened by disease and malnutrition. In July alone, the organization shipped and flew in more than 1,400 tons of supplies, valued at more than three million euros, to Sudan. The supplies included large quantities of medical and logistical material as well as full containers of food. Across Darfur, MSF is providing medical care in hospitals and clinics for those wounded in the violence, victims of sexual violence and displaced living in camps who suffer from malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea - the latter the main cause of death, particularly for young children and the elderly. Another important part of the organization's activities centers on feeding malnourished children. MSF has organized "blanket feedings" to distribute survival food rations to children under the age of five. MSF estimates that by the end of 2004 it will have distributed more than 800,000 survival rations. Teams also provide clean water and latrines to reduce the risk of cholera, dysentery and other diseases. In late July, MSF was treating some 10,000 malnourished children in its feeding centers and performing almost 12,000 medical consultations a week. An MSF assessment carried out in late August found that people living in remote regions of northern Darfur still lacked food and medical aid despite the increased mobilization of international aid agencies in the region. Aside from addressing these needs, MSF will also hold a massive measles vaccination campaign there, targeting 80,000 children between the ages of six months and 15. In addition to providing immediate relief, MSF has been speaking out on the precarious situation of the displaced and the need for immediate action. Despite the efforts made by MSF and others, many people remain exposed to hunger, disease and violence. The people of Darfur need much more assistance than MSF can provide. The organization continues to call on international aid agencies to increase significantly their delivery of aid, especially in areas that remain cut off from help at present, in order to meet the immense needs and avoid further deaths.