Political Passivity and Humanitarian Decay

Refugees wait for food supplies on border of Chad and Sudan.

Refugees wait for food and shelter in South Darfur

A few years ago, while reading a random review of a television series in the LA Times, I came across a statement that will resonate with me forever: “Tragedy lurks in the corner of every decision… tragedy doesn’t always just occur, sometimes it accumulates.”  With respect to the escalating violence and eroding conditions in Darfur, and the border regions of Blue Nile, Abyei, and Nuba mountains, the international community is responsible for the tragedy that lurks behind their collective indecision and inaction.   In the wake of Mohamed Suleiman’s recent letter to President Obama, any news of the continually deteriorating conditions for the people in these targeted areas is especially poignant.  For many of the victims that manage to escape the aerial bombings, burning of villages, and gunfire, life only gets worse in the IDP camps or other areas in which they seek refuge.

A Few Numbers..

There are approximately two million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur.  Of these, 1.4 million live in refugee camps, and over three million need some type of humanitarian assistance.  The UN estimates that 300,000 people have fled Darfur in 2013 alone.  This is over twice the number of  IDPs than in the past two years.   Over a million people have been displaced or otherwise traumatized (having homes or means of survival destroyed, women being raped..)  in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile (border areas that became targets due to their supposed alliances with the Southern Provinces and the SPLM).

Malnutrition, Disease and Lack of Healthcare

  • Per a WHO fact sheet, The malnutrition rate in Sudan has risen past the emergency threshold of 15% . According to the UN and Ministry of Health, that equals about 750,000 children with severe malnutrition in 2013 alone.

 Approximately six million IDPs, returnees, refugees and people from affected communities in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei have inadequate access to basic health care.  There is high morbidity and mortality from communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases in conflict-affected regions.  There are 1.2 health professionals per 1000 people in Sudan and 0.4 to 0.6 per 1000 people in Darfur and the border areas. The WHO standard is 2.3 per 1000 people.(src)

  •  Four children died at a hospital in Central Darfur this week due to an outbreak of diarrhea, malaria, vomiting and malnutrition at an IDP camp.  Elderly adults are also suffering from paralysis of an unknown cause.  According to a camp spokesperson, they are awaiting a medical team to investigate.  In South Darfur’s Attash Camp, two to four children per day are dying from disease and shortage of medicines.  A nearby camp is experiencing alarmingly high rates of conjunctivitis, malaria, and skin diseases.  A sheikh representing the camps said that there are only two health centers for over 70,000 people in the region and that one of the actions needed to help prevent spread of disease is to simply cover pools of stagnant water in and around the camps.

The Humanitarian Aid Deadlock

  • According to a spokesperson for the Association of Displaced Persons and Refugees of Darfur, the displaced people of East Jebel Marra have not received humanitarian aid since 2012 due to a combination of NGOs leaving the area and conflicts between the government and SRF.
  • Relief efforts by the UNHCR were effectively blocked earlier this month when work permits for 20 of it’s staff based in North Darfur were not renewed by Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).  The General Commissioner of the HAC is still citing “procedural delays” for the permits, “despite extended follow-up with relevant government authorities.” 
  • On Wednesday, President Omar Al Bashir held a meeting in Khartoum to set new guidelines for international humanitarian groups working in Sudan, including UN agencies.  The guidelines effectively give the Sudanese government full control over the activities of aid organizations.  Sudan’s interior minister stated that:  “The new, detailed procedures will ensure that work is in line with government policies and strategy.”  Considering the government policy for the past ten years has been one of genocide in the areas requiring aid, there could quite possibly, be no more formidable statement.

Alamin Osman, Director of Health in the Nuba Mountains, commented on the conditions and lack of aid in the region in the 2012 documentary ‘Across the Frontlines’.  He said that after the Sudanese Civil War ended, Omar Al Bashir immediately refused to let NGOs into the Nuba Mountains.  In addition to injuries sustained from aerial bombings and other attacks, the children were suffering from an outbreak of measles, malnutrition, and he was expecting an outbreak of TB.   His message was this:

The international community has helped the regime in Khartoum to reach their goals. The death of children from disease is what they were after…this is what they have achieved.  He (Bashir) will have achieved this through the weakness of the UN.


—— Alicia is a licensed cytogeneticist and blogger for Living Ubuntu currently working in San Diego county.

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