Security remains top concern for children in Darfur, Sudan
Save the Children President and CEO Charles MacCormack, who recently returned from a visit to Darfur, said it was "critically important" for the international community to move quickly to strengthen security in Darfur through the deployment of a much larger African Union peacekeeping force.
"The peace accord is good news," said MacCormack, noting that the Sudanese government has agreed to halt military flights over Darfur and allow free access to humanitarian aid to families forced from their homes. "However, with violence still unchecked in much of Darfur , hundreds of thousands of Sudanese remain at risk," he said.
"Right now there are simply not enough African Union peacekeepers to help maintain security at 150 temporary camps set up to protect Sudanese children and families forced to flee their homes due to ethnic violence," MacCormack said. "The Darfur region is about the size of Texas , but so far only about 700 African Union cease-fire monitors are in place throughout the entire region. At least another 2,300 more monitors are needed immediately with a clear mandate to protect children and families in the camps."
Regarding the health of displaced families in the camps, MacCormack said that humanitarian conditions in many of the camps have improved significantly in the past several months and that many lives have been saved as a result of a prompt response by humanitarian organizations.
"Our efforts have saved many lives. The very high death rate that many feared might take place in the camps has been averted -- at least so far," MacCormack said.
To address the crisis, Save the Children has become the largest distributor of food aid in western Sudan , providing food to more than 300,000 people--40 percent of whom are children--in 44 camps in West Darfur .
In addition, Save the Children has initiated a number of programs to improve health, nutrition and sanitation services for families within the camps as well as to protect children and engage them in recreational and educational activities.
Among its efforts, Save the Children has:
- Established 14 primary health clinics;
- Created 12 child activity centers where
more than 10,000 children participate in structured play activities each
- Distributed blankets, soap, plastic
sheeting for shelter and other essential items to 46,000 families;
- Launched a measles vaccination campaign
designed to reach 30,000 children;
- Begun establishing community therapeutic
feeding centers so children will have closer access to the best available
nutritional support; and
- Supplied up to 30,000 litres of water a day to displaced families and created a new water system that operates 24 hours a day in one camp.