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Thursday, 08/12/2010

First rains on Darfur

Source: European Commission's Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kristalina Georgieva25 Jun 2010 06:36:00 GMT

Website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/index_en.htm
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.


Sudan, June 2010
I arrive in Nyala after a day in Khartoum, Sudan's capital and most prosperous city. The contrast is so dramatic that it is hard to believe we are still in the same country. Khartoum, the city where the Blue and White Nile meet, is booming — oil revenues fuel construction everywhere. It is a capital of a middle income country and only the occasional donkey on the busy streets reminds of Sudan's rural soul.

Nyala, in the South of Darfur, has none of Khartoum's glamour. It is visibly poor, with mostly unpaved streets, lots of mud houses and frequent electric power failures. But Nyala is well off compared to the camps, hosting millions of internally displaced and refugees across Darfur. Power cuts don't exist there for a simple reason - there is no power to cut.
I visited one of them — Kalma camp. It is the first relocation centre where displaced people affected by the 2003 conflict gathered. With a population of over 82,000, mainly from the Fur tribes (who give their name to Dar Fur -home of the Fur), it is the second largest camp in Darfur, entirely self-ruled by the Sheikhs, and Sheikhas - women in the camp are very active and take part in its running. When it first started, the camp was in a forest. Now the forest is gone, the trees cut down for fuel and housing materials, making a harsh life in this arid place even harsher. Humanitarian workers provide most of the services here - food distribution; health care, water and sanitation. But with the camp population growing, and resources limited, they can't cope. In the children's clinic, each day we provide some 150-200 malnourished kids with the nutritional supplements and treatment that literally save their lives. Food distribution, which we also support, covers 62 percent of nutrition needs. We have to prioritise, and target those most at risk - kids under two, pregnant women, those with medical conditions.
But the most pressing need is security.

Only yesterday, two people were killed in the camp. Across Darfur, May was the worst month since 2008, with nearly 600 people losing their lives in rebel and ethnic fighting, among them - two Egyptian peacekeepers. Kidnapping and harassment of humanitarian aid workers has also increased. In Kalma, in my meeting with the Sheikhs and Sheikas, the call for security is loud and clear. They, especially the young, also talk about opportunities for development, which won't happen without security in place.

As grave the conditions in the camp are, at least there is access to those living there. As fighting between government forces and rebels, and between tribes, continues, humanitarian workers are prevented from reaching some of the most needy communities. Big parts of Jebel Mara, the place from where most of the people in Kalma came from, and where fighting is ongoing, have been inaccessible since February. I can only imagine the dire conditions for the women and children who are in great need of humanitarian assistance which we are simply unable to bring them.
My last meeting in Nyala is with humanitarian workers.

 These brave men and women serve humanity in one of the world's most difficult places, risking their lives and freedom. Without them many of the services that make life in camps bearable will simply disappear. We owe them more than gratitude and funding to do their job - we also must support their struggle for access to those who need help, and advocate for security of their operations.

As I write this post, the first rains fall in Darfur. They bring hope for a new harvest and a better year, after the hardship of the current drought. I learned that - like in my own country - rain is a symbol of luck. But Darfur needs more than luck - its people need peace and a fair share of the resources that have so successfully transformed Khartoum.
Kristalina Georgieva is the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Response
















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