Increasing level of Insecurity in Darfur Strongly Restricts Humanitarian Working Space

Decrease in the aid working space has led to immediate consequences on the patients

As combats are starting up again in Darfur in Sudan, there is a considerable reduction in humanitarian assistance, that is nevertheless vital to the populations: the families that live in the combat zones do not receive any kind of aid and are in immediate danger. In addition, the lack of security, that is present everywhere in Darfur, threatens the assistance given to populations that are regrouped in the camps, but also to the residents, the nomads or those living in the rebel zone.

The increasing security problem in Darfur also has consequences on Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid operations. "We are currently reaching the limits of our assistance: we do not have access to populations who are directly affected by the conflict. And in the areas where we operate, the increasing lack of security leads to a diminution and interruptions in our activities, and put the life of displaced families in great danger," said Bruno Jochum, Director of Operations for MSF-Switzerland.

"Globally speaking, we are faced today with a significant reduction of the aid provided to displaced people in Darfur, which is due to several different reasons, one of them being the lack of security. At the same time, it's very clear today that populations directly suffering from the conflict resumption do not get any assistance. Any independent evaluation of the people's needs, especially war-wounded people, is impossible. The increasing level of insecurity affects populations as well as humanitarian workers, and strongly restricts our working space," he added.

For the past two months, the lack of security on roads and the proliferation of attacks with different levels of violence (12 humanitarian workers have been killed since May 2006) question directly the aid provided to these captive populations, who are deliberately kept under total dependency.

"Today, the survival of populations in pockets where humanitarian assistance was still possible is jeopardized in several areas of Darfur. Because of the lack of security, some of our operations in the field has been temporarily suspended, or have seen a decrease in the number of aid workers. Another consequence is that all our mobile medical activities, which target especially nomadic populations, had to stop," explained Bruno.

The decrease in the aid working space has led to immediate consequences on our patients, especially on those in need of significant surgical care. "We can no longer carry these people to suitable medical facilities, because of the lack of security which makes roads inaccessible. Some patients die because they couldn't be sent to a hospital," said Dr. Denis Lemasson, Head of programmes at MSF-France.

At the same time, the financial support of sponsors has decreased. The budget restrictions put as much tool on the food distributions as on water distributions and hospitals support.

"The health of displaced populations in Darfur, who live in pockets where until now assistance was possible, has remained acceptable only because the aid system has been able to provide effective answers to their needs for the past 2 years. These families find themselves in total dependency, given the fact that they are kept in camps which have become open air prison, and that they are deprived from all self sufficient mean of survival. Any decrease in aid will have direct consequences on their health. Our teams have already witnessed that situation in Mornay, where the population was faced with a cholera epidemic," explained Dr. Denis.

"However, it is the increasing lack of security which has the most tragic consequences. The 14th of September, for instance, the deterioration of the situation in the area of Jebel Marra led our team to evacuate the village of Kutrum, where 110 cholera cases had been counted. If the epidemic spreads out, ill persons won¡¦t have the chance to be cured. For these populations now deprived from assistance, medical disaster is to be feared."

Because of the recent spate of insecurity, MSF projects in Korma and Kutrum, outreach project in Kaguro, mobile clinics from Niertiti for local nomadic populations have been either put on hold or evacuated.

A primary focus for MSF in Darfur is to be able to react quickly to outbreaks of disease, fighting or new displacement throughout the whole region. MSF is also continuously lobbying for increased aid and improved access in the region.

MSF has been running projects in Darfur since early 2004 and today has 123 international and 2233 national staff working across the three provinces. With a total budget in Darfur for 2006 of nearly 20 million Euros, it is one of the most significant operations in the world for MSF.