Nyala, South Darfur, 21 June2007 - In South Darfur, another 3,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of brutal attacks on their villages, adding their anonymous number to the more than 2.5 million others in Darfur that have suffered the same fate. The conflict has killed at least 200,000 people since violence escalated in 2004.
Upon hearing reports that villagers had been forced from their homes in and around Edd el Fursan, because of attacks or for fear of attack, UN agencies and ACT-Caritas carried out an assessment mission in the area last month.
"One village was completely empty," said Simon Egadu, ACT-Caritas Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator, who participated in the assessment mission.
The inhabitants of the villages now gather their families under trees in a nearby town.
"On Saturday, we were attacked by people with guns riding in three land cruiser vehicles, and on horses and camels" said one villager. All the other villagers reported the same sequence of events.
Some men and children had poorly bandaged wounds, from bullets that had gone right through a limb as they ran.
"When we were attacked, we just ran in any direction. I have lost a child and my sister. I have not seen them for ten days now," said one woman, weeping.
In the bush just outside another small town, the situation is the same. About 1,700 people fromanother village camp under trees. Why did they come here? "The Janjaweed" says one man.
The local authorities initially provided some basic assistance with food. But the displaced fear that if organisations help them by providing water, cooking utensils, blankets or other essential items, the armed militias will be tempted to attack and try to steal anything they have.
ACT-Caritas workers say the victims need shelter. They need protection from the sun and heat in the day, and from the wind and cold at night.
"Protection is a critical issue. The people are in fear. Armed men are moving around just some five kilometres away from them, and there are threats that they will be attacked again," said Mr. Egadu.
Many people want to go to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, where they will be safer and where basic services are better. The rainy season has begun, making travel to remote locations to deliver humanitarian aid to the displaced extremely difficult.
One Omdah (head sheikh) from a neighbouring town and some people in Nyala have sent trucks to the area to collect the people and transport them to Nyala, where they are settling in established camps for internally displaced persons.
However, some villagers report that they have been blocked when trying to travel to Nyala.
The assessment team later met with the local authorities, who said they had not been hindering movement of the displaced in any way. But they did not rule out that another "security body" might be doing so.
With the situation unclear, further assessments in the area will be carried out to determine how to respond. ACT-Caritas is already providing blankets and essential household items for the new arrivals in Al Salam camp outside Nyala.
Action by Churches Together International (ACT) and Caritas Internationalis (CI) are working together in a joint response to the Darfur crisis.
ACT International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.
Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations present in 200 countries and territories.
For more information, contact:
Nancy McNally, Caritas Internationalis
Tel: +39 06 69879752
Mobile: +39 334 2344 136
Callie Long, ACT International Communications
Tel: +41 22 791 6039/6033
Mobile: +41 79 358 3171
Fax: +41 22 791 6506