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Saturday 26th May 2018

'Crisis' of suffering in Darfur

15th November 2006

21072006_darfur1.jpgThe people of the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur are undergoing a crisis of human suffering amid renewed fighting which has forced doctors to withdraw from some areas, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"MSF has had to reduce its activities due to intensified fighting and mounting insecurity throughout Darfur," Dr. Rowan Gillies, International Council President of the Paris-based humanitarian medical group said in an interview published on the MSF website.

MSF said in the article it had experienced more than 40 violent security incidents, forcing the organisation to close or reduce staff of the majority of its assistance programs in the Jebel Marra region, and can no longer refer surgical patients in western Darfur.

The organisation has also had to postpone relief efforts for some 160,000 people living with little access to assistance or medical care in the town of Seleia.

Meanwhile, in southern Darfur, MSF teams have had to evacuate the towns of Muhajariya and Shariya on numerous occasions.

Gillies recently returned from a visit to the region, where he met Sudanese government officials to express MSF's concerns over the worsening security situation in Darfur as well as to assess the humanitarian needs in the region.

"When it comes to medical data within the so-called islands of assistance - the large displaced persons' camps in the government-controlled towns - that we can actually access, some of the parameters are okay, in terms of nutrition and mortality. However, there is a crisis of human suffering," he said.

"These people have been stuck in these camps for more than 30 months. They cannot go outside of the camp to collect the basic necessities of life like food and water because they have a high risk of being killed or raped. And these are supposed to be the lucky ones; the people who were able to access some assistance."

Gillies said there were many places that MSF couldn't get to because of the security situation.
"We simply don't know how these populations are coping. We recently responded to a displacement of 35,000 people in Muhajariya in southern Darfur. These people had been displaced just in the past three weeks. They have acute needs for water and food. And if they stay displaced they are going to face the same problems of the people who fled their homes in 2004. The situation of the people is what you could describe as medically stable, but humanly, completely unacceptable," he added.

He called on government officials to do more to prevent violent attacks in the areas they controlled.

"As medical humanitarian workers, we have been forced to make the difficult decision to leave populations that need assistance because it is just too dangerous to try to reach them. And that has happened most recently in the Jebel Marra mountains in the midst of a cholera outbreak, where we had to pull out our teams," Gillies said.

He said MSF had a number of programs that, until recently, were built around a referral system for patients in need of surgery. "But we can no longer transfer these critically ill patients because the roads are too dangerous. In 2004, I drove on most of the main roads in Darfur. Today, all but one of the main roads is too risky to travel on. All staff movements need to be done by plane," he added.

But Gillies stopped short of calling for armed intervention in the region.

"Once you start recommending an armed intervention - especially one that could potentially end up being without the consent of the government - you are essentially recommending that another party should enter the war. As a humanitarian aid agency, that is something we must not advise one way or another. It is not our role to choose sides in a conflict since such actions can put our staff in grave danger and deny the very argument of neutrality that allows us to work in the first place," he said.

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