Relief for Sudan's refugees

By Staci Dennis

DARFUR, Sudan - It was lunch time at the Al Salaam refugee camp school as children lined up to receive their food - boys on one side, girls on the other.

Some children carried silver tin cups, others came with plastic bottles cut in half and turned upside down. All had smiles on their faces as they watched hot porridge being scooped into their containers. Half a loaf of fresh-baked flat bread topped off the meal.

The vitamin-packed meal, which includes soy, maize, millet and other healthy grains, is part of the daily activities at the refugee school operated by German non-profit, Humedica, and funded by Operation Blessing, who are working together to provide more than 2,500 refugee children with an education.

The school, however, is just a small part of the large-scale relief operations OBI and Humedica are running in three separate camps - Otash, Al Salaam and Al Shereif.

For the past four years, civil unrest in Sudan has forcibly displaced more than 2.5 million people and sent them fleeing to IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps scattered throughout Darfur.

Today, those camps are bursting at the seams as OBI and others look to increase their efforts to provide medical care for a population of 100,000 living in the camps and surrounding villages.

Most recently, Otash refugee camp closed to newcomers after its numbers swelled from 10,000 refugees a few months ago to more than 61,000 today.

At Al Salaam, between 150-300 refugees - mostly women and children - are arriving daily with little more than the clothes on their back and a few belongings.

Together, OBI and Humedica, have already made a significant impact on the health and living conditions in the camps, by offering a 24-hour midwife delivery service, postnatal care, primary health care services and vaccinations against diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and measles.

Additionally, OBI has provided funding for the two schools operating at Al Shereif and Al Salaam.

As the main source of medical care for this burgeoning population of 100,000, OBI and Humedica are making plans to increase relief efforts by expanding the capacity of their existing medical clinics and schools as well as extending medical relief to additional camps.

"These clinics and camps are an oasis of healing," said OBI President Bill Horan, who was in Darfur earlier this month. "We want to do all we can to help make a life for them again."

Staff writer Sarah Pate contributed to this story.

How You Can Help

You can take part in helping Sudan's refugees by making an online donation toward OBI's "Crisis in Darfur" fund. With your support, OBI can continue to provide food, medical care and more to thousands of hurting refugees.