Darfur: Mass Displacement Continues in 2014
18 Mar 2014
The humanitarian crisis in Darfur shows no sign of abating, with some 60,000 people forced from their homes in South Darfur since the end of February.
“People are in a critical situation here,” says Saleh Issa, a community leader at the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in South Darfur. Since the end of February, fighting between the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi and the Sudanese Armed Forces and allied paramilitary groups has forced an estimated 60,000 people from their homes in South Darfur’s Um Gunya area. Over 25,000 of these people have sought refuge in the Kalma and Al Salam camps.
Saleh conveys a bleak picture of conditions in the camp. The sudden influx of people has put pressure on services that were already thinly spread. As a result, some of the new arrivals don’t have access to enough clean water, sanitation or health services.
Access to Kalma camp has been relatively good, but insecurity continues to hamper humanitarian organizations’ efforts to address people’s needs in locations such as Saraf Omra in North Darfur, where an estimated 61,000 people have fled.
Despite humanitarian resources being stretched, recent arrivals at Kalma and Al Salam camps are receiving basic, life-saving assistance. But after being forced to flee their homes, people fear that they have lost everything.
“We can’t do anything much apart from hope that the situation soon changes,” says Mohamed Mohameldein, who arrived at Al Salam camp with 20 other families who were forced to flee their homes due to the recent fighting.
Mohamed and his family are grateful for the generosity of Mohamed Hassan, the Headmaster of a school at the camp, who has given them temporary shelter. “It is a matter of humanity,” explains Mr. Hassan.
Mobilizing a humanitarian response
Despite difficulties reaching recently displaced people, humanitarian organizations have been able to provide some assistance to people living in villages affected by the conflict. However, humanitarian organizations are concerned that providing assistance to these villages may encourage people to stay in unsafe areas.
In Kalma camp, some nutritional supplements and emergency medical supplies have been distributed in the hope of preventing disease outbreaks. However, more assistance is needed.
Humanitarian organizations do have access to most of those recently displaced by fighting in South Darfur. But continued insecurity, fighting and Government restrictions on movement are affecting their ability to respond to the needs of these vulnerable people.
“Ongoing hostilities are having a direct impact both on civilians and on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess needs and make sure vulnerable people receive assistance,” says Ivo Freijsen, Head of OCHA in Sudan. He called on the parties to the conflict to ensure that humanitarian agencies could reach those affected with aid.
“It is inexcusable that once again, after 11 years of conflict in Darfur, civilians are bearing the brunt of the hostilities,” he added.
Families torn apart
Most arrivals at Kalma and Al Salam camps are women and children; the men have remained behind to protect their homes and livestock. Sitting in her makeshift hut, hastily constructed out of plastic sheeting and branches, Fatima Abdala from Barakatuli village waits for news from her sons.
“I left my two sons behind in the village,” she says. “I had to move quickly to escape the fighting. I arrived at Kalma with nothing except the clothes on my back.”
Like many other mothers and wives, Fatima simply waits for news from her loved ones who remained behind to protect the family’s home and livestock. She waits for the humanitarian assistance that she and thousands of others now depend on for their very survival. Most of all, she waits for peace—an end to the cycle of anguish and torment that millions of Darfuris have endured over the last 11 years.