Violence Hinders Foreign Aid in Darfur

As violence escalates in the Darfur region of western Sudan, foreign aid agencies are finding it impossible to take food and water to refugees, a U.S.-based agency reported Thursday. Last week, the United Nations ordered a hold on aid distribution to the region after a Scottish humanitarian worker was killed by a landmine.

According to Christian Aid Mission, refugees, a majority of them women and children, remain desperately in need of help, particularly as the rainy season begins and they are caught with no shelter, clothing or blankets.

“Many wander for days with no food or clean water, their homes destroyed by marauding bands of Janjaweed militia,” the mission agency reported. “Once in a refugee camp, they still face unsanitary conditions and insufficient supplies of food and medicine.”

Christian Aid estimated that up to 10,000 people are dying in these camps each month. And according to UN estimates, 70,000 people have died from malnutrition and disease in the last seven months alone, a figure the Sudanese government disputes.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of refugees are moving across the border into neighboring Chad, which borders Sudan on the west. “Indigenous Christian ministries there want to help refugees in the name of Christ, but they lack resources,” Christian Aid stated. “They are eager to visit camps and distribute aid to these mostly Muslim people.”

However with no end to the fighting in sight and the situation worsening, the agency reports that aid will be slow in coming from foreign sources due to safety issues.

Similarly, other humanitarian groups in area report that poor security has hampered the relief effort. Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the U.N. Advance Mission in Sudan, told Reuters that teams from international agencies have been harassed by Janjaweed, rebels and at a military checkpoint where government soldiers fired into the air on Oct. 16 in areas near the site of the rebel attack.

With crops and livestock, the only source of livelihood for the refugees, ruined or stolen by the Janjaweed, an estimated two million Sudanese will starve to death this year unless they receive food aid.

In what the Red Cross has described as an "unprecedented food crisis," Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has called on the international community to send more funds.

Christian Aid Mission, headquartered in Virginia, reported that the Africa director for the agency plans to be in Chad next month to provide funds for indigenous missions that are helping the refugees. With these funds, gospel workers will be able to purchase food, water, clothing, blankets and medicines.