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Darfur adrift–
no end in sight

The 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.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor Red Cross Red Crescent

This man is one of the 100,000 displaced people living in Gereida camp, South Darfur.

A displaced woman in Darfur replies to her husband, a refugee in Chad, through a Red Cross message.

Gereida camp, South Darfur.

Fearing further attacks, more people, including many elderly, have recently sought refuge in Gereida and in other makeshift camps.

In remote parts of Darfur, an ICRC mobile surgical team brings life-saving treatment to soldiers and civilians.

Training for community-based animal health workers is aimed at herders, pastoralists and nomads who travel huge distances to attend a basic veterinary course provided by the ICRC.

Sudan Liberation Army combatants attending an ICRC humanitarian law dissemination session in Durum.


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