situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate. The insecurity
has taken a turn for the worse in recent months, leaving many
inhabitants deprived of their livelihoods and vital assistance.
As a result of the internal armed conflict, whole populations
are being displaced, preventing farmers from tending their
fields and disrupting access to markets and health services.
The magnitude of the needs has prompted
the ICRC, together with its Movement partners, to mount a
large-scale assistance operation, currently its biggest worldwide.
“To be a Darfurian today —
of whatever ethnic origin — means survival in absolute
insecurity, very far from diplomatic statements. It means
the pain of having lost everything yesterday. It means fearing
today’s insecurity and tomorrow’s uncertainty.
This dire situation can only be solved through political means.
Meanwhile, genuinely independent and neutral humanitarian
action is now more necessary than ever, though it is getting
more and more dangerous,” says Jacques de Maio, ICRC
head of operations for the Horn of Africa.
Indeed aid workers in Darfur are operating
in increasingly perilous conditions. Several staff members
of humanitarian organizations have been killed or wounded
in attacks. In August, an ICRC employee was abducted and subsequently
murdered. Although access to certain regions is sporadic,
activities go on in all three Darfur states.
The main priority is to assist residents
and displaced people in rural areas, in particular by providing
seeds, tools and appropriate relief that corresponds to needs.
Water-supply and medical programmes are also vital.
Two million people are currently internally
displaced while 220,000 have sought refuge in Chad. In South
Darfur, more than 100,000 displaced people are living in makeshift
camps spread over several square kilometres around the town
of Gereida. Here, a nutritional programme is under way with
the aid of the Australian and British Red Cross Societies.
A four-person surgical team is based in Nyala and can be deployed
in a matter of hours wherever clashes occur to treat wounded
soldiers and fighters on all sides of the conflict. The ICRC
has stepped up its support to Ministry of Health vaccination
campaigns and has intensified its veterinary programmes to
fill gaps and to promote the population’s self-sufficiency.
To ease the plight of the civilian population, the ICRC maintains
confidential dialogue with all parties at all levels to remind
them of their obligation under international humanitarian
law to ensure that civilians are protected.
The Darfur conflict has scattered many
families in its wake. Searching for missing persons and helping
dispersed family members exchange news — and where possible
reunite them — is a long-term undertaking ably assisted
by the Sudanese Red Crescent.
With no sign of the conflict abating,
the Movement’s humanitarian mission in Darfur is set
for the long haul.
ICRC editor Red Cross Red Crescent