|Darfur: in the cycle of violence
By Sophia Ioannou, press attaché
In 2004, the violent conflicts in Darfur caused the displacement of 2 million persons. These people were forced to abandon their homes and villages in order to search for a safer refuge in towns controlled by the army. Another 200,000 escaped to bordering Chad to save themselves from the attacks. When they arrived there, instead of finding safety and security, they had to deal with yet another cycle of violence, insecurity, famine and disease...
Despite the peace accord signed in 2006, conflict continues to take place today, costing the lives of 300,000 persons. In addition to these civilians, since July of 2006, 12 humanitarian workers have been killed and 5 remain missing.
The 2.5 million refugees who are currently residing in refugee camps face the possibility of an attack at any moment: any time from gathering wood to transporting water. As a result, these camps have been converted to prisons. Violence has become the norm inside the camps as well as outside of them. Hundreds of thousands of people have no access to humanitarian help because of this continuous conflict.
In the last months alone, the incidents of violence towards unarmed citizens in Darfur have substantially increased, resulting in an exponential worsening of the situation. This has significantly limited the work of humanitarian organisations. Tribal conflicts have resulted in completely burned-down and desecrated villages, leaving hundreds dead and hundreds of thousand displaced.
This situation’s tragic consequences directly affect the population. 350,000 people, out of the total four million who wholly depend on humanitarian aid for their survival, have been denied access to it. With armed conflict being reigned in the area, it is extremely difficult for proper humanitarian aid to reach its destination – the population that needs it the most in order to survive. Access is limited, while at the same time disease and violence plague the lives of millions of refugees. These persons need water, food, shelter and medicine so that they can survive.
MdM – What they do
In a region like Northern Darfur, where many organizations were forced to abandon or to limit their scope of work due to the escalating violence, MdM continues to intervene with programs and initiatives for the improvement of health care. MdM supports the health framework which has collapsed, by rebuilding two Health Centers in Northern Darfur. These centers, one in Shegeg Karo and the other in Al Beyda, will secure access to primary health care services for 95,000 persons. In addition, in cooperation with UNICEF, MdM will supply medicine, medical equipment and educational seminars on issues of hygiene and sanitization to the local staff.
Groups of volunteers organised a mass vaccination campaign of 35,000 children under the age of 5 in remote areas of Northern Darfur. Volunteers visited 200 remote villages in the general area of N. Darfur in order to vaccinate children against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and hepatitis. They also vaccinated sensitive pregnant women against tetanus.
Three vaccinating teams left al-Fashir daily and covered a great deal of terrain while trying to target as many villages in as little time as possible. The teams set up a temporary, outdoor infirmary on a daily basis. This was located under a large tree in the village, so that the people were protected against the blazing sun. Hundreds of women and children made their way from the forest to the make-shift infirmary to receive their vaccinations.
The principal challenge faced by MdM today is to reach people who are located in areas without access to help.
In al-Fashir, you can see people on the move throughout the day. The constant presence of many armed men everywhere is the only sight that causes you to be suspicious. There is a widespread sense of insecurity, a sense that anything can happen at any moment…
Four truck-fulls of Janjaweed militia men and ground machine gun enter the town. That same night, the ensuing battle took the lives of six. Speak to any resident and you will quickly find out that everyone has lost someone during these conflicts. These populations live here forgotten, exposed to daily violence, completely dependent on humanitarian aid.
Irini Kalogirou, MD
In Sudan, MdM has been present since February of 2005 with health care improvement programmes in the area of Darfur. During that time, the teams that compose MdM have reconstructed three remote Health Centers, have supported these centers with medical equipment and medicine, and have provided primary health care services to 95,000 people.
* This program is financed by Hellenic Aid (75%) and by the private funds of MdM (25%).