Sudan: Expelled aid groups support effort by remaining ones to fill program gaps
The IRC and 12 other international relief agencies expelled from northern Sudan earlier this month have been working closely with the UN, remaining aid groups and the Government of Sudan to help them fill programming gaps left by the forced-out organizations.
Still, it is an enormous challenge to quickly replace the vital services that represented around half of all humanitarian assistance in Darfur, as well as aid for millions of people in the north and east. Speed is especially critical now as the rainy season approaches and brings with it the increased threat of cholera and malaria.
"Most sanitation and hygiene programs carried out by the expelled agencies have stopped, which creates an enormous health risk," says Kurt Tjossem, who oversees the IRC's programs in the region.
The IRC ran sanitation programs for 158,000 people in Kass, Kutum and Nyala in South Darfur and hygiene programs for tens of thousands more in West Darfur.
"To the best of our knowledge, no other groups have taken over these services. If these programs don't resume quickly, the camps could become breeding grounds for contagious diseases," adds Tjossem.
IRC clinics in Darfur that were shut down immediately after the expulsion order have been reopened by other agencies, but only basic services are available and hours of operation have been sharply cut.
"Many of the IRC's former clinics in Darfur used to operate 24 hours a day and that was essential in large camps like Kalma that shelter tens of thousands of people," Tjossem explains. "Now these clinics are unable to offer impatient care and other critical medical services."
The situation is also worrisome in the states of Blue Nile, Kassala, Red Sea and South Kordofan, where 56 former IRC clinics that served hundreds of thousands of people are suddenly lacking the IRC's regular supply of medicines, staff training and other support.
To date, there has been no indication that people deprived of services are moving elsewhere to search for them. However the IRC is actively putting contingency plans in place in Chad and Southern Sudan as a precaution.
IRC emergency experts have been dispatched to eastern Chad, where the IRC provides humanitarian aid to 59,000 Darfur refugees in Oure Cassoni and Bredjing camps. The IRC is also set to expand medical services in the Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, just south of Darfur, in the event of new arrivals.
The IRC, an independent, impartial and secular aid organization, has been a lifeline to conflict-affected communities throughout Sudan for 28 years. The IRC provided humanitarian aid to more than 650,000 people in Darfur and 1.1 million others in the North and East of Sudan.