348508_44124480466@N01.jpg Sudanese baby Africa Oil Watch: August 2004

Sunday, August 22, 2004

UN fears Sudan crisis worsening and warns of refugee exodus

Aug 20 CNN report:

The UN warns that thousands of displaced persons in the Darfur region of Sudan could cross to Chad if no credible measures are taken to make them feel secure inside.

Jean-Marie Fakhouri, the new director of operations in Sudan for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, made his warning Friday two days after he met 300 representatives for about 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Those talks took place in Masteri, a large village "swollen with the arrival of people displaced from other communities across the region," the UNHCR said in a news release.

The agency said it was concerned that "such an influx of 30,000 refugees in one single spot along the Chad-Sudan border, if it were to materialize, would put a strain on our ability to care for and feed refugees in our camps there."

This is the latest grim issue involving Sudan's Darfur, regarded across the globe as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
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UN warns of Sudan refugee exodus

Aug 20 BBC report BBC report:

UN warns that some 30,000 refugees might cross into Chad to escape persecution in Sudan's Darfur region.

The displaced people have gathered at Masteri village to escape attacks by pro-government Arab militia, according to the UNHCR.
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UN airlifts food to Darfur town

Aug 21 BBC report:

More than 1.2 million people in Darfur have fled their homes.

UN is airlifting food to remote communities in Darfur cut off by heavy rains.

UN's World Food Programme dropped food into the town of Beida, on the border with Chad.

The lift came as the UN warned that 30,000 refugees might cross into Chad to escape persecution in Darfur.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

UN says its World Food Programme has delivered less than one third of babyfood needed for Darfur

Aug 18: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is using costly air drops again because of the long forecasted seasonal rains. Below is an excerpt from a Telegraph report by David Blair in Khartoum filed on August 18, 2004, that explains another reason for the delays in aid getting through to Darfur.

[Note the emotive language the UN uses in relation to the Darfur children, and how it wastes no time pointing out blame on anything but itself for failing to deliver in time. If the aid planes were 'grounded' because of the AU summit, why didn't the UN and WFP scream and shout about it when it happened last month so it could make headline news for the world to see why half the aid is not getting through. What is the good in bringing it up now, when there is nothing that can be done about it?]

Note the report states: "The world's biggest international relief effort has delivered less than one third of the special food needed for acutely malnourished children in Darfur, the United Nations said yesterday:

Vital time was lost when flights carrying a high-energy corn and soya blend were grounded by Ethiopia for seven days last month. The Ethiopians blamed air traffic control problems caused by African leaders arriving for a summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The UN's World Food Programme is responsible for feeding all 1.2 million refugees in Darfur, the western region of Sudan which has been terrorised by the Janjaweed militia.

According to WFP figures, 8,220 tons of corn and soya blend were needed to feed malnourished children between April and last month. But only 2,455 tons were delivered, barely 30 per cent of the requirement."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtm [sorry link has disappeared into Telegraph archives]
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WFP scales up Darfur operation

Aug 18 report copied here in full:

The UN World Food Program (WFP) is boosting the delivery of relief food to hundreds of thousands of people in western Sudan's Darfur region as the rainy reason begins to bite.

"In order to meet the challenge in Darfur, WFP is urgently scaling up its operation into the region, with particular emphasis being placed on El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, the state worst affected by the rains," WFP said in a statement.

The WFP representative in Sudan, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, said delivering food to the region by air was expensive but the only option at this time of year. "The next six weeks will be critical as the rainy season really begins to bite - we have a massive task ahead of us," Da Silva said in the statement.

"From today, WFP will be using three Antonov 12 cargo planes to airlift 100 tonnes of food a day to El-Geneina. The three planes are to complete three rotations per a day," the statement added.

If the weather conditions worsened the runway in El Geneina would become unusable, the agency warned.

"A third helicopter has arrived in Sudan to assist the transportation of drop-zones teams into locations where air drops are to be received," the statement said.

The UN estimates that up to 50,000 people have been killed since Sudan's armed forces and the Janjaweed militia cracked down on minority tribes backing a rebellion, which erupted in Darfur in February 2003. The government disputes the figure.

Another 1.2 million people have fled from their homes in Sudan and up to 200,000 more have been settled in makeshift camps in neighbouring Chad, the United Nations says.
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Hepatitis in Darfur raises fears, more refugees flee

Aug 18 report copied here in full:

The UN's health body raised alarm Tuesday over a jump in deadly cases of hepatitis E in Sudan's Darfur region and another agency said a new wave of refugees had fled to neighbouring Chad to escape the violence. The United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) also warned that Chad was worried about the harmful impact of the refugee influx on its fragile economy.

Hoping to ease the crisis in Darfur, which has prompted up to 200,000 people to escape to Chad and 1.2 million to flee their homes internally, a third international organisation said it was due to sign an accord with Sudan on Thursday to assist the safe return of citizens.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said unclean water and terrible sanitation had triggered more than 1,000 cases of hepatitis E, resulting in at least 27 deaths. The figures compared with 625 cases and 22 deaths reported last week.

"It is not a minor thing," said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.

"It shows how bad water and sanitation is in the camps despite the international organisations' efforts to improve it," she told a news conference in Geneva, where the global health body is based.

Hepatitis E has a low mortality rate compared with hepatitis B and C, but its outbreak in Sudan -- a country that until now had been free of the disease -- could have a devastating impact among vulnerable people such as pregnant women and children, the spokeswoman said.

"WHO, with its partners, is conducting activities to reduce this epidemic of hepatitis E across the whole of Darfur, in particular the west, which has been hardest hit," Chaib said.

The agency, with help from Sudanese health officials and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was trying to raise awareness about the illness, which is passed person-to-person and is typically linked with dirty water, and was also delivering water purification tablets.

Underlining the terror in Darfur, which has claimed some 50,000 lives since Sudan's army forces and the so-called Janjaweed militia cracked down on minority tribes backing a rebellion in February 2003, the UNHCR reported that 478 refugees have entered Chad -- the first such wave in two months.

"The refugees said they had finally decided the leave because they lost hope that peace would come, had limited resources given the constant looting by the Janjaweed and because they sensed the Janjaweed and authorities connived to prevent them from leaving," UNHCR said.

The agency added that it was monitoring the border to establish whether the recent arrivals were an indication of a flood of new refugees to Chad or merely an exception to the two-month lull in crossings.

Officials in Chad warned the UNHCR's head of Sudan operations, Jean-Marie Fakhouri, that the Sudanese victims were placing a great strain on the economy.

"They told Fakhouri that any large, new arrival of refugees could destabilise the already fragile Chadian economy," the agency reported.

In a bid to help resolve the hardship for the people of Darfur, the director general of the International Organisation for Migration was travelling to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Tuesday to meet with senior officials.

"During the visit, (Brunson) McKinley will sign an agreement to oversee and assist in the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons to Darfur," said IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy, adding that the signing was due to take place on Thursday.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

WFP Reaches Agreement With Sudan Rebels on Food Aid

Aug 14, 2004 Geneva - This is the second report I've seen re the curious story of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) reaching an agreement with the Darfur rebels on food aid.

Over the past three months, it's been as clear as mud to me exactly why it was so difficult to get aid into (and news out of) Darfur. Were the Darfur rebels holed up in Darfur all along and the area was blocked by Sudanese forces stopping the rebels from getting out of Darfur and aid getting into Darfur? Or were the Darfur rebels stopping the aid from getting through to Darfur? Why does the report here say that the UN food trucks not attacked were subjected to bureaucratic and other delays by the SLA and JEM?

Did the Janjaweed pose as rebels and attack aid trucks to stir up trouble and bad press for the rebels? I'm still not clear on this -- seems there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Whatever, it is an under reported story that the U.N. is not saying a lot about. And, for some reason, we do not hear much about what the rebels are up to -- it's always the Janjaweed. How does one even know that the rebels aren't posing as Janjaweed to get the international community to put more pressure on Khartoum?

The U.N. wastes no time in getting its press releases out about needing more money and blaming aid delivery delays on donors and rain -- causing WFP to run low on funds because they had to resort to costly air drops. I never did find out what happened after they air dropped food into Darfur: who was on the ground in the flooded areas and rain to pick up the food and distribute? The U.N. only reports what it wants us to know. I'm not implying here any sort of wrong-doing, it's just interesting to follow a story closely enough to note the gaps in reporting. I find there is lack of reporting on what the rebels have been doing these past three months, which does make the news not very balanced -- bearing in mind the US have had special forces on the ground, dribs and drabs of all sorts of observers, monitors, aid workers etc., from all over the world have entered Sudan -- and yet the news we get to hear is, in my view, sanitised to the point of not being informative at all.

Here is a copy in full of the above report:

The World Food Program says it has reached an agreement with two rebel groups in Sudan's troubled Darfur region to give the agency access to areas under their control, so the WFP can assess food needs at camps for internally displaced people.

An estimated 1.5 million internally displaced people are living in 153 camps in Darfur. A spokeswoman for the World Food Program, Christiane Berthiaume, says her agency has been able to get access to 119 of these.

She says fighters claiming to be rebels have held up United Nations food trucks in recent weeks. And those that are not attacked are subjected to bureaucratic and other delays by members of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.
"So, we hope that, with this agreement, we will have access to more people in need. We have already made an assessment in one of these places. It is in rural Kutum, where we found 13-thousand people in need of food aid, and we hope to be able to do more of these kinds of assessments, because, as you can imagine, before bringing food into a camp, we have to go see what are the needs."

Ms. Berthiaume says the agreement will allow WFP to start registering people in the camps and to evaluate their needs. She says it is important to know how much food is needed, and what kind. For example, she explains, malnourished people require special high-protein food.

She says registering people is also important, because it is a way of making sure that the right people get the food.
"And also for us, the registration is important because that will tell us how much, what amount of food you need to bring into a camp. … We cannot take the risk of not bringing enough food into a camp. Because, can you imagine if we do not bring enough food the riots that could occur because we would not have enough for everybody."

It is raining heavily in Darfur. Many roads are impassable. Over the past two weeks, the World Food Program has airdropped nearly one-thousand tons of food to areas that are completely cut off from road traffic.

If the agreement with the rebel groups is honored, Ms. Berthiaume says, aid workers should be able to reach their target of feeding one-point-two million hungry people this month.

This, she says, would bode well for deliveries in the coming months. She says the number of people who will need food assistance by October is expected to increase to two-million.

This article uses material from VOA.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Manna from heaven in Darfur - Getting aid into Darfur is like squeezing a watermelon through a keyhole

CNN report August 12, 2004, by Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent, from Habila in Western Darfur - in full:

Sacks of Sudanese sorghum, U.S. wheat, Candian split peas and pulses are falling from the sky, providing the villagers of Habila their first food aid in three months. In wave after wave, 414 tons of food have been delivered recently. It's still just a drop in the desert, but a much needed one. "Trying to get aid into Western Darfur is like trying to squeeze a watermelon through a keyhole because of the infrastructure, the size of the airport and the rainy season," says Peter Smerdon, spokesman the U.N.'s World Food Programme.

Because of the rains, the village of Habila is completely cut off. There's not an inch of paved road, and dirt tracks are now muddy gulleys. Despite the fresh grown grass, from the air one can see evidence of the war that has burned the straw roofs of huts, destroyed hundreds of villages and left more than 2 million people across Darfur entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. International relief workers are trying to save lives in a desperate battle against malnutrition. So far it's struck at least 20 percent of the children.

Late planning for this emergency and a slow response from donor countries mean the United Nations is now making these expensive and inefficient air drops as a last resort.

It looks impressive, but it only amounts to a fraction of these people's monthly needs -- and the violence continues. The United Nations says the Sudanese government has resumed bombing raids on rebels in south Darfur. It also says villagers are still being attacked by Janjaweed militias.

Habib Makhtoum, the vice governor of western Darfur, denies that. He also denies reports the government is forcibly trying to move people out of camps back to their destroyed villages. "There is no violence here, and no compulsory repatriation," Makhtoum says. "On the contrary, people ask us to help them go back. In fact, most people tell us they won't go back home until there's proper security."

In the meantime, this is their fate: A desperate rush to retrieve whatever aid comes their way. The men are sent out to haul it back for distribution, and women sweep and save every last grain from sacks that explode on impact.

Each family treasures the strict rations that are carefully doled out. After all, they don't know when they'll get their their next delivery.
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Update - inserted Sunday August 22, 2004:

Sudan rebels seek weapons, food aid
For about 600,000 civilians living in the areas under their control

Aug 21 WT report, copied here in full:

Like Western governments and international relief groups, rebel leader Suleiman Jamous worries about getting food to victims of ethnic cleansing in western Sudan.

But he is also seeking modern weapons to build his ragtag Sudan Liberation Army into a force that can capture cities abandoned earlier to Sudanese troops and force the government to grant equal rights to non-Arabs in the region.

"We need SAMs to shoot down Antonovs; we need anti-tank weapons, we need ammunition," said Mr. Jamous, referring to anti-aircraft missiles and the aging Soviet-built planes used by Sudan's army.

Mr. Jamous, a tall, gaunt man, wearing the traditional long shirt and a turban made from camouflage netting, is the No. 3 official for the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) in northern Darfur.

He is also the coordinator for humanitarian affairs in the SLA's political affiliate, the Sudanese Liberation Movement.

"We have about 600,000 civilians living in the areas under our control," Mr. Jamous said. But it's a number that is hard to verify. There has been no reliable census data in Sudan for years.

And despite the presence of SLA troops, who roam the countryside with heavy machine guns mounted in the back of their pickup trucks, most civilians are too terrified of the Sudanese army to come back to their villages from their hiding places in the hills and deserts.

Those who show up at wells, filling goat skins with water for the rest of the family still hiding in the hills, tell of misery and impending hunger. Muhammad Abdurahim Ishag, a stocky, muscular peasant who looks 20 years fitter than his 65, said his family has been surviving on wild herbs and makhet, a pealike fruit that the locals eat when they have nothing else.

The women have made forays close to government-controlled cities to buy some food, Mr. Ishag said.
"The government doesn't allow any food to leave the cities," Mr. Ishag said, watching his youngest son filling goat skins with water, "so our friends smuggle out food and sell it to us outside the cities."

The SLA marks Aug. 1, 2001, as the beginning of its insurrection.

"In 2001, the army massacred 57 civilians in a place called Tuel," Mr. Jamous said. "So the whole area was angry and joined the SLA. The news spread that the government was killing even innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the SLA."

Mr. Jamous said the uprising grew out of resentment over the campaign of forced Arabization carried out by successive governments in Khartoum. "They [the government] have gathered landless Arabs from Chad, Mali, Niger and Central African Republic, promising them to settle them in the lands of the African people of Darfur," he said. "This has been going on since 1982, when the first cases of ethnic cleansing started ... The government then denied responsibility, blaming it on tribal conflicts.

"But we knew who was behind the killings and the burning of the villages."

The present campaign by the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed to suppress the uprising in Darfur only flooded the SLA with thousands of additional volunteers.

Mr. Jamous himself is a perfect example of what drove thousands of people in Darfur, one of Sudan's most underdeveloped areas, to take up arms against the government.

A graduate of the University of Alexandria in Egypt, he speaks perfect Arabic, but he could never breach a glass ceiling in his career. He worked at a paper-producing company, was employed by the government, set up his own business, but as an ethnic Zaghawa he was never allowed to rise above a certain position in Sudanese society, he said.

"Sudan has been ruled by a clique of Arab elites," Mr. Jamous said. "All the development — economic projects, health care and education — has been concentrated in Arab areas but they represent only 15 per cent of Sudan's population. We want to change that. We want equality, we want development — electricity, clean water, roads, schools. We want democracy."

Darfur epidemic fuels fear of camp closures

Copy of Telegraph's report by David Blair in El Geneina (Filed: 11/08/2004):

Darfur's desperate refugees have been struck by a new blight, with the United Nations reporting yesterday that hundreds of people have fallen victim to an epidemic of hepatitis E.

Aid workers in Darfur see this as the most serious threat to the camps since the onset of the refugee crisis in western Sudan last year. Some 480 people are reported to have the disease. The fear is that Sudan's regime could use the outbreak as an excuse for closing the camps and forcing the 1.2 million refugees back to their villages.

Tainted water could spread hepatitis E through the camps

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis E and 13 people have died so far. Contaminated water causes the disease and any outbreak in crowded camps is likely to spread rapidly.

The World Health Organisation said that Western Darfur province was the worst affected, with eight deaths and 198 cases. "The only thing we can do is improve the water sanitation in the camps," said Yvette Bivigou, a spokesman for WHO in Sudan. "We're trying to chlorinate water supplies, but there is still a gap in terms of water that the refugees are using and water that is safe and chlorinated."

Hepatitis E has a normal fatality rate of two per cent but that rises tenfold in the cases of pregnant women. Mornei camp, the largest in Western Darfur with 75,000 refugees, has seen the most serious outbreak, pregnant women accounting for all but one of the eight deaths. The number of cases in Mornei trebled during the past week.

There has also been an outbreak in Ardamati camp outside El Geneina, the capital of Western Darfur, where 100,000 residents live alongside 80,000 refugees.

"This has caused huge fears among the local authorities because there's a possibility that it could spread to the resident population," said Dominic MacSorley, emergency co-ordinator for Concern, the Irish aid agency.

"Every effort is being made to contain hepatitis E but if it does get out of hand, we have a concern that it could be used to justify the relocation of people to their villages."

Under immense international pressure because of the refugee crisis, President Omar al-Bashir's regime in Khartoum is anxious to close the camps as soon as possible. But aid workers warn that forcibly relocating the refugees, many of whom are severely malnourished, would put them beyond the reach of international help.

Unless action is taken, the hepatitis E outbreak could escalate to become a cholera epidemic that would endanger thousands of lives. Mr MacSorley added: "This is a wake-up call to all international aid agencies that the services currently being provided in the camps are inadequate." Clean sanitary facilities and chlorinated water supplies are the only answers to hepatitis E and cholera.

Concern aims to build 10,000 pit latrines in Western Darfur's camps but the refugees' grass shelters are so tightly packed with people that any facilities are quickly overwhelmed.

• Sudan launched new helicopter gunship attacks in Darfur yesterday while Arab militia attacked refugees, the United Nations said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

As of July 1 nearly half of DPs in Darfur had not received food assistance

Aug 9: International Medical Corps (IMC) has a rapid response team in Darfur, and is coordinating with the UN and other agencies to meet the most immediate and basic human needs, such as food, shelter, clean water, sanitation and health care.

The gaps in coverage are tremendous. Of the one million displaced persons and 200,000 residents of host communities in Darfur, it is estimated that nearly half had not received food assistance, non-food items or shelter materials as of July 1; 62% had no access to clean water; 87% lived in areas without proper sanitation; and 63% lacked access to primary health care. In addition, 80% of children under five had no access to treatment for malnutrition.

Beyond the staggering number of people in need of assistance, accessibility is a major issue. Sudan is roughly one quarter the size of the United States, yet it has just one one-thousandth the miles of paved highways. As of July 1, the displaced were scattered across more than 80 makeshift camps in an area approximately the size of France, wide stretches of which are either partially or totally inaccessible during the June to September rainy season. As a result, delivering supplies often requires using airplanes, devouring funds that would otherwise be used to staff clinics or purchase medicines.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

U.N. World Food Programme is a 50% failure - It is as efficient and effective as the U.N. itself - and needs overhauling

- draft post - work in progress -

Over the past month, there seems to be conflicting reports on the aid situation in Darfur and Chad. Mainstream media do cover news of aid deliveries as and when they occur. And aid agencies are quick to report when they have made an aid delivery. Making it all sound like everything is in hand and under control.

But then you read contrasting reports from aid workers on the ground in Sudan and Chad who say many refugees are without even the most basic aid and shelter.

The U.N. regularly issues press releases complaining that donors have paid only a fraction of money pledged. Subtle implication that aid will not reach people who face starvation because donors are unwilling to pay for aid and its delivery.

Three months ago, the U.N. held an emergency meeting in Geneva to ask donors for c.250+ million dollars for Darfur (I have the exact figures - will log them here at a later date) - recently they've increased the figure to c.350+ million dollars while complaining that "only" one half of the sum it requested has been paid to date.

Who knows if the U.N. licks a finger, sticks it in the air, tests which way the wind is blowing, thinks up a few low sounding numbers - multiplies it by ten - adds six zeros - doubles the total for good measure -- so if it squeezes a quarter or even half of that sum from a few hours of meetings in Geneva with donors, the world inside the U.N. can count on their jobs, mortgages, cars, expenses and travel accounts for another year or two ... Yes, it sounds ridiculous -- just making the point that U.N. figures are meaningless to most members of the public.

The U.N. has no problem in thinking big and talking fast when it comes to quoting numbers in thousands or millions - in terms of cash or refugees - and thinks nothing of casually moving a decimal point or adding a digit here and there - without explanation. Who are they aiming such news at, I wonder. Perhaps they think we are daft or they are too used to public inertia -- voters don't seem to question or challenge the U.N. and their sums. Not because people don't have views, but there is no easy way for their voice to be heard. Huge crises like genocide and ethnic cleansing may be too overwhelming for most folks to handle or articulate. Instead, they switch off. And don't air grievances about aid agencies and charities because they think it won't make one iota of difference, is a total waste of time and breath.

In my experience, I've found that the majority of people I've come across or read about are compassionate and caring, and would like to be of help to people who are suffering and in need. The Live Aid concert in 1985 showed how young people still care and have dreams about feeding the world ...but that was nearly 20 years ago - and long after the Beatles and Biafra.

800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda 10 years ago. What has changed since then? Has the Common Agric Policy (CAP) been scrapped? Have the debts of the world's poorest nations been cancelled? Is each country in the world paying its fair share into helping those most in need? What about China and Russia and Malaysia and other countries with oil interests in Sudan -- why do they not provide humanitarian assistance to Darfur? How come the ground in Sudan holds so many riches but two million people have been slaughtered and hundreds and thousands more are right now facing death through starvation and disease - and yet one hears not a word from the oil companies who are operating there right now.

Why are hundreds and thousands of Sudanese people facing death by starvation while the handful of men responsible for massive scale crimes against humanity are permitted to reject offers of help and call the shots on behalf of those starving. These thugs are wining and dining, flitting around in jets and helicopters, calling the shots and being treated like they are in a negotiable position. There's enough evidence to put them behind bars right now for proper questioning in front of a war crimes judge and jury. The world owes it to the two million victims of genocide in Sudan -- and to the 2.2m survivors of genocide in Darfur who are now suffering the most miserable existence on this planet.

As 60 years roll on, the U.N. seems only to excel at one thing: fundraising. Every few months it appears to appeal for a few hundred odd million dollars here and there -- and at the blink of an eye increases the figure to three hundred million dollars -- same with the refugee numbers -- no details explaining the increase. The U.N. publishes numbers starting at 500,000 that in a flash jump to 1m -- few weeks later it's 1.2m -- then 1.5 changes to 2m -- and the latest is this week 2.2m Sudanese people are in desperate need of food. Why is Khartoum not made responsible for this -- are they too poor?

Genocide in Sudan has gone on for years. Genocide in Darfur has gone on for the past 17 months. It's been under the world's spotlight for three solid months now. Intelligence agencies have had a year and a half of satellite photos and reports. The U.N. has had sixty years of experience. Aid agencies, after decades of appeals, have become part of a slick multi billion dollar business. Who measures their success or failure? Where is the accountability to the the public?

During the past week or so, there have been fresh reports about the U.N.'s refugee camps in Chad where there is one latrine per 100 families; 5,000 refugees, desperately waiting for tents and food rations, were denied aid for several weeks because they had not been registered. Apparently, the registration process at camps is too bureaucratic and grindingly slow. One camp overflowed with 11,000 "unexpected" refugees. These are just a few examples.

When members of the public see nine-digit-sums of cash gobbled up by faceless administrators in swanky 9-5 bureaucrat land - it's no wonder they do not feel eager to help or donate hard earned taxed cash. What difference would their effort and contribution make anyway? Experience over the past 20 years seems to have taught them that the answer is: zilch. I've heard people say "Africa and such places have always had wars and famine. It's a way of life for them. Countries who receive aid don't ever say thanks for caring -- and usually end up resenting it anyway and treating it with contempt and disdain."

After years of Sudan's government raking in the aid and development funding where are their words of appreciation or thanks? What do they think of us in the Western world while they rake in billions in oil revenues, jet all over the world, hobnobbing with all and sundry -- going off on spending sprees to Moscow and China for new stuff like 12 new MiGs?

How do they think we in the Western world view their contempt of us? What do they do to help others less fortunate than themselves? How come they expect to go to market and get the same fair deals as everyone else in the world when they refuse to stop behaving worse than animals? What makes them tick? They cannot have it all their own way. No-one can. Either they are sorted out or no-one -- including China, India and Malaysia -- should be allowed to buy oil from Sudan. If it means throwing all of them off the UN Security Council - or whatever it takes to sort this horrific crime against humanity out - so be it. Boycott them. Cut off their pipes. The citizens of the world do not want blood for oil.

These countries - and the aid agencies - must think the public are daft. What are all these rackets going on? Who is all on the gravy train? Donors to the U.N. are accountable for public funds - maybe there's a good reason why they only pay up in dribs and drabs. The U.N. is a bottomless bucket. Is it good value money? Going by what has happened in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Sudan and elsewhere -- I think not. It needs some serious attention and overhauling.

Note the U.N. and aid agency personnel jet here there and everywhere to meetings and discussions (and hotels and expense accounts) that results in the creation of more words and distribution of zillion more bits of useless paper -- but they don't squander any of the donors' money on things like surplus tents and latrines.

I've logged here - in an earlier post - how the UN refugee agency shockingly failed to plan for another camp in Chad in readiness for the Darfuris.

Obviously, it goes without saying, there are good aid workers and great work being done -- but that does not account for or make up for the massive shortcomings.

A few weeks ago, there was an under reported story where refugees in one camp got so angry and upset - it caused a near riot - they threw stones at U.N. aid workers (who walked out for a few days) after they unveiled plans to plant trees around the camp. The insensitive project signalled to the refugees that they weren't going home soon and were trapped in the camp for the long haul. Quite understandable. I'd get up in the air too if I saw well fed aid workers planning to plant trees when there are hundreds and thousands facing starvation and disease through lack of the most basic aid. Seems tribal leaders had to sort out the fracas - two refugees were shot dead. It must have been awful. But we did not see much of that story in UN reports.

Back in April and May the U.N. aid agencies admitted too little had been done too late. Not because they were being honest. But because they got caught out and put on the spot. It took them by surprise to find Darfur getting in the limelight so fast. I truly believe the Internet, websites, online petitions, emailing and weblogging technology that is in our hands today played a big part in this. Which is why it took all those involved with Sudan - including Khartoum - so by surprise.

The effort the U.N. and aid agencies are putting in now is reactive - it's crisis management. And because the U.N. refugee agency and WFP is still getting it badly wrong, their plans - and finances - go pear shaped before the planes even unload the aid at their destination.

Bet the refugees can't believe their eyes when they see costly and fancy medical supplies, trucks, helicopters, planes, politicians, observers, reporters, cameras, sat phones and stuff arriving - but no sign of real news or help. A sea of refugees facing the extreme elements huddled under flimsy plastic sheets propped up by twigs. The huts they built in their villages back home were sturdy neat looking abodes to shelter from the sun, sand storms and rain. They must wonder at what the future holds. We don't get enough news from these camps. How do they spend their days? Are the children getting educated? Are they learning to speak English? Do they get enough water? How do they receive their rations? Do they have to wait all day in line or what? Why is there so much lack of good reporting -- it makes me wonder what the aid agencies -- and U.N. have to hide. Why are they not making public how they are spending taxpayers cash? I'd like to see an independent reporter do a report on all of the refugee camps -- and the whole business of the aid agencies -- out in places like Chad and Darfur.

Recently, WFP started its first deliveries with supplies they intended would last six months. What took them so long? Whatever they are delivering these past few weeks is swallowed up right away because they've taken too long and under estimated the number of refugees. They trumpet news of deliveries of food for one million people in July. But U.N. reports say there are 2.2 million people in need of basic food and aid -- and tens of thousands are in areas where aid has never been delivered. Chief of MSF recently says the aid effort needs to be doubled. How come he knows that but the U.N. and WFP don't?

So, given that WFP admit they have delivered food for one million people and the U.N. says there are 2.2m people in need - that means they are a 50% success - and a 50% failure.

So, by their own admission, bottom line is WFP has 800,000+ milliion dollars pouring into its coffers -- but it's only reaching half of those affected by the Darfur conflict. Why? Who is responsible? Is anybody asking these questions?

In the past week or so, WFP is spending its funding to pay for hugely expensive air drops in Darfur. Are the Chadian troops, Dutch and 200 French soldiers on the Chad/Darfur border being paid by WFP to airlift food? How does it work -- and why were the French all of a sudden willing to help after all these weeks and months -- when the U.N. aid workers were screaming out for helicopters to distribute aid (the French had the equipment in nearby region).

WFP used the long forecasted rains as an excuse for the air drops. Now they are using the air drops as an excuse for appealing for more funding. Why didn't WFP use those vastly expensive air drops to get basic aid to those who needed it most, weeks and months ago?

Conclusion: the U.N. World Food Programme with its 800+ million cash funding -- is a 50% failure -- is as efficient, competent and speedy as the U.N. itself - and needs serious investigation and overhaul. This blog aims to cover these issues over the coming months.

Further reading:

August 7, 2004, copy of BBC report -- British aid gets to Sudan camps. Waste and animal waste start flooding all over the place -- copy in full:

One thousand latrines are being erected in a Sudanese refugee camp with the help of UK charity Oxfam. The equipment, plus water, arrived in Nyala, Darfur, on Thursday, having left Kent on Wednesday. The aid is the latest to be funded by a UK public appeal to help about 2m people displaced by war. The appeal, co-ordinated by the Disasters Relief Committee, has raised £15m of a £24m target since its launch on 20 July.

The latrines and water were sent to Kalma camp where about 60,000 refugees are living - twice the number sheltering there three weeks ago. "There is very poor sanitation at the camp. Over 60,000 people are just going to the toilet in the open," Oxfam spokesman Adrian McIntyre told BBC News Online from Sudan. "When it rains, the human waste and animal waste start flooding all over the place." He said severe diarrhoea was on the rise and there was the constant threat of typhoid and cholera. The rains also caused havoc in getting the aid to the camp.

It is only 15km from Nyala, but the trip can take an hour. "It's not a road, it's just a rutted dirt track through the desert," Mr McIntyre said. Low-lying gullies running across the road swell into rivers when it rains - "it's quite impassable, even for four-wheel drive vehicle, never mind a lorry."

Constructing the latrines involves digging a pit 3m deep with an opening 80cm by 80cm. A slab is then placed on top and a privacy shelter erected. Teams of workers from within the camp dig the pits. "They are happy to participate as they recognise the seriousness of the threat to public health," said Mr McIntyre said. "While we have engineers and health experts, it's important for the people to help. "They have often seen their families killed, abused, even raped, so to be able to participate is crucial as it is a part of their lives they can control."

Education is vital to limit and prevent outbreaks of disease, he said. The refugees are taught - by Oxfam and camp committees - about hygiene, how to collect and store water safely, and the importance of washing children's hands after going to the toilet. After a serious outbreak of watery diarrhoea and bloody diarrhoea in one camp, Oxfam realised there was contamination with the water.

While the water source itself was clean, the containers the refugees were using to collect it had become contaminated with bacteria. "In five days we cleaned and chlorinated 15,000 water cans, in a camp of 51,000 people. "Within a week the cases of severe diarrhoea had dropped by 50%," Mr McIntyre said. "So there is a direct and dramatic link between education and health." Oxfam is one of dozens of aid agencies from around the world helping in Sudan.
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My question on this report is: how come after decades of experience on hygiene education in refugee camps -- the containers the refugees were using to collect water in had become contaminated with bacteria in the first place?

Why are the refugees not taught this when they register: what is the registration process all about? -- the hours of hold ups causing weeks of delays in refugees getting basic aid.

Weeks ago, when I first saw photos of refugees lining up with their piles of plastic bottles waiting for the water trucks to arrive, it struck me that the containers looked filthy and I wondered why this was so. Why the aid workers allowed the bottles be in such a state. I concluded they must boil the water before they drink it. Now I realise there's probably no way all that water gets boiled ... I am shocked. What are the aid agencies doing out there?!! Are there not enough aid workers or what? What is the problem -- are they skimping on money?

The above BBC report makes it sound like Oxfam were patting themselves on the back for cleverly identifying a problem and heroically providing a solution. Kids stuff. It really is not good enough. If our top aid agencies are not trained to deal with such elementary stuff -- what are they like with complicated problems?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Crisis in Darfur: One million people could die before Christmas

A few months ago, USAID were quoted as saying that one million Sudanese refugees will die if the aid does not get through, and 300,000 will die if aid does get through. Soon afterwards, they received a huge amount of funding from the US government.

The figure of one million is being used again today in a Reuters report of Medair's appeal. (website: http://www.medair.org).

Note, whenever there are major news developments during humanitarian crises, the aid agencies waste no time in ramping up their appeals. Perhaps it is something they do on a regular monthly, bimonthly or quarterly basis. I'm not implying they are wrong to do so - it's just something I've noticed while following the news on Darfur and the aid agencies.

I've started this journal to log some news reports of the crisis in Darfur relating to the aid agencies, especially those connected with the U.N., so in time one can look back and get a glimpse into how they operate. The aim here is to explore why the public are desensitised towards appeals for aid; get a sense of what the agencies are doing to meet the needs of those in need - and see if they are good value for money. This journal is work in progress and an experiment in group blogging whilst acting as an electronic filing cabinet for future reference.

American blogger Patrick Hall at The Horn of Africa blog is the first contributor to this group blog. More about that in a later post. Anyone is free to contribute ideas or relevant material via email or in a comment here. Blogger's commenting facility here enables those without a blogspot to comment, but it seems bloggers need to provide their URL (and email if they wish) within the comment itself.

Below is an excerpt from Medair's emotive appeal in Reuters' report. There are a few inaccuracies: the Darfur conflict is in its eighteenth month; death toll is estimated at 50,000 - 80,000; refugees are numbered at 1.2 - 1.5m; some reports say 2m or 2.2m to including the refugees in Chad. As and when I find more accurate reports, I will log them here:

"As you read this appeal, the people of Darfur in western Sudan are in the grips of what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Over the past 15 months an explosion of violence has caused the death of thousands of people and the displacement of more than one million people, fleeing to major towns or across the border into Chad. A lack of even the most basic supplies and services, in particular food and water, have left people in a most desperate state.

Can you imagine the population of Birmingham (UK) or Detroit (Michigan, USA) being wiped out by December 2004? The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has calculated that in the worst case more than a million people will die in Darfur over the next few months. At best, this figure will be 300,000 they say. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has described the situation as a pending ‘catastrophe’."

UN refugee agency underestimated number of refugees

August 5, 2004, report from Abeche, Chad says humanitarian agencies working in eastern Chad are bracing for another wave of Sudanese refugees.

The UNHCR and the World Food Programme have struggled against tremendous odds to feed the refugees.

Difficulties in delivering aid in a country that has no railroads, few paved roads, and only about 7,000 telephone lines have been compounded by the rainy season, which makes parts of the country virtually inaccessible by land.

The UNHCR initially underestimated the number of refugees. Plans were made to receive 72,000 refugees from Sudan. As of early August, 174,000 had arrived.

As a result, provisions that were expected to last six months have almost been exhausted, and the WFP will now make a new appeal for donations, said U.N. officials speaking on condition of anonymity.