UMCOR Team Heads for Darfur

The nonprofit relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church dispatched a team of workers this week to the Sudanese region of Darfur. Over the next three weeks the team will explore ways to expand the agency's involvement in delivering aid in what the United Nations calls "a crisis out of control."

According to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a team of professionals in the field of international relief and development, arrived Thursday, Oct. 21, in Khartoum

"They will be evaluating gaps in aid efforts and exploring possible partnerships with other agencies," said UMCOR Africa program director Marc Maxi.

Darfur, which covers a remote area the size of Texas, has a population of seven million who are scattered over the harsh desert landscape. In the past year, according to a Reuters report, attacks by government troops and Arab militia have forced about 1.2 million people from their homes.

As many as 70,000 have died, with violent raids and massacres accounting for many deaths. Meanwhile, other deaths have been the result of malnutrition, disease and tainted water. Reports of rape, torture, and looting, despite a nominal ceasefire, continue to emerge from the region.

"We have lost everything," a 14-year-old resident of an internally displaced persons camp in the region told an aid worker.

Through conversations with the donor community in Khartoum—such as United Nations agencies coordinating emergency response—the UMCOR team will examine short-term and long-term relief and development projects, Maxi said. Expected areas of focus include income-generating activity, water and sanitation facilities in camps, and agricultural development.

Currently, UMCOR donations are already supporting UMCOR aid in the area. The agency reports that it is currently partnering with an international ecumenical alliance in Chad refugee camps where 130,000 Sudanese have fled from their burned and looted villages. The agency says continuing support by donors will assist further efforts.

Donors may send their gifts to Advance #184385, Sudan Emergency, in care of UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. To donate using a credit card, contributors may call toll free, 800-554-8583.