Sudan: Tearfund appeals for funds as Darfur crisis deepens

Christian relief and development agency, Tearfund, is appealing for emergency funds as the conflict and desperate on going humanitarian crisis worsens in Darfur and Chad. It is estimated that there are currently over two million people displaced across Darfur due to the conflict, higher than the number displaced at the time of the previous 2004 appeal. A further 140,000 people are internally displaced in Chad. Some 240,000 refugees have fled from Darfur into Chad since the crisis began in 2003.

Tearfund relief workers are operating in some of the worst affected areas, alongside partner agencies in both Darfur and neighbouring Chad. As a result of recent factional rebel violence across the border some 25,000 Chadian refugees have entered Darfur. Tearfund is running water and sanitation programmes, fundamental to tackle the spread of disease, with supplementary feeding, nutrition and health education projects in the displacement camps in Darfur, as well as reaching communities across different Sudanese and Chadian ethnic groups.

Nigel Timmins, Tearfund Operations Manager for Sudan has just returned from the region. "Since this humanitarian crisis began, four years ago, we have been responding and adjusting our response when access to locations is restricted by the fighting. With the conflict in Darfur spreading into Chad we are seeing suffering and fear on a chilling scale. Hundreds of thousands of people are, at best in camps that are spilling over and worse still, caught between marauding rebel incursions across the border. We have been getting relief to as many people as we are able to reach, but the situation is not improving and we have to be ready to support civilians affected for as long as they need."

Since the conflict in Darfur began in early 2003, it is estimated that over 200,000 people have died, many as a direct result of the violence. The conflict was violently escalated by an attack on government targets by a rebel group claiming the region was being neglected by Khartoum. The Sudanese Government has been accused of arming the Janjaweed militias which have savagely attacked, terrorised and burnt villages throughout Darfur - killing entire communities. Other rebel groups have triggered further escalations of violence. Communities are often caught in the cross border raids and factional fighting. Those that survive the attacks tell of their women being brutally raped and beaten and their farms pillaged.

Thorya and Sara fled their home in when it was attacked in November last year with their children. "They burnt our houses, killed children, they stole our sheep, goats and donkeys," says Thorya. "We travelled for a day on foot to El Neem camp with nothing." And the women don't feel safe in the camp. "If you walk half a kilometre out of the camp to collect wood you will be shot," adds Thorya. She says the women have tried to dig wooden stumps and roots out of the ground to use as firewood rather than venturing out of the camp. Others have returned to check on what they had left behind and were attacked again.

Ibrahim is an old man who fled his home with the rest of his family when it was attacked. They arrived in the camp with only the clothes they were wearing. Looking around the camp at El Neem he says "without the NGOs all these people would suffer or die".

Nigel Timmins says that it is because of people like Ibrahim and Sorya - and the tens of thousands that are at risk, that Tearfund has been at the forefront of aid relief in Darfur since the crisis began. "We are running our largest relief operation with our largest field team," says Nigel. "We have people, many career specialists in water and sanitation, nutrition and hygiene, dedicated to saving lives and sustaining life. People are generous in their support for meeting the need on this scale and with the money given we are committed to doing exactly that."

Notes to editors

Nigel Timmins is available for interview. Contact Jonathan Spencer in the Tearfund Press Office on 020 8943 7901 or 07767 473516.

Tearfund's Darfur operations involve a team of 285 staff, of which 260 are local nationals. Tearfund is also working in partnership with the Fellowship for African Relief (FAR) in Darfur and Christian Outreach, Relief and Development (CORD) in Chad.

A summary of work achieved to date and follow on phase includes:

The nutrition programme, having treated over 13,000 children, with over 4000 malnourished children cured. The programme, benefiting from further funding, will provide treatment for a further 5800 malnourished children and women.

Water and sanitation programmes having constructed some 14,500 latrines, 180 new wells and water points with 18 others rehabilitated and some 4200 water containers distributed. Further funding will support the construction of a further 4700 latrines and 28 new water points with another 18 rehabilitated.

Over 82,000 women and children receive health education each week - with another 65,800 children and 14,000 women due to receive health education and trauma counselling through schools and out of school clubs.

3000 tree seedlings planted at Ed Daein

400 male youths trained at Ed Daein in HIV and AIDS community awareness

Hygiene items: 1,800 hand washing implements, 1,800 potties and 9000 bars of soap

A rainwater harvesting pilot, community development and income generation at Geneina Animal Slaughter yards, waste disposal pits and waste carts for four markets

160 laundry facilities

In Chad: over 1000 people receiving vocational training or assistance for income generation and livelihoods; some 4800 people enrolled in literacy classes; 900 elderly, disabled, widows and orphans being cared for; some 4200 children and young people participating in youth clubs, sport and health education.

Tearfund is one of the UK's leading relief and development agencies, working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches around the world to tackle the causes and effects of poverty. Tearfund is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee.