As the International Contact Group on Darfur/Sudan convenes in Paris on 25 June 2007, Action Against Hunger offers these comments on the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
Displaced persons camps reach full capacity
As thousands of people continue to be displaced in Darfur every week, many of the camps for internally displaced persons have reached their full capacity, especially in southern Darfur. An estimated 140,000 people are reported to have fled their villages since January 2007 due to continued fighting in certain rural areas. These people have sought refuge in the existing larger camps around the major cities or they formed new camps in the surrounding rural areas.
An alarming nutritional situation
Action Against Hunger's recent nutritional survey in As Salam camp in southern Darfur revealed a global malnutrition rate of 23.3%--far above the emergency threshold of 15% of global malnutrition. Some of the chief causes for this distressing situation in camps is the lack of access to drinking water and sanitation as well as poorly developed income-generating activities for displaced families.
Increased vulnerability with onset of rainy season and insecurity
The commencement of the rainy season coincides with the hunger-gap period, the time of the year when the most vulnerable parts of the rural population have used up their entire food reserves. Hence it is essential for humanitarian actors to access these populations. However, heavy rains make roads inaccessible, a problem compounded by the insecurity that continues to make humanitarian assistance to these areas difficult. Since the beginning of this year, more than 60 vehicles belonging to international NGOs have been attacked and stolen. Such acts of violence have been on the increase, partly due to a feeling of impunity by the armed factions controlling these rural areas.
Alternative solutions for access to rural areas
With hostile weather conditions and insecurity constraining the work of humanitarian organisations, innovative solutions are sought. Helicopters are used to reach certain rural areas that are inaccessible by road so that vital assistance to populations who depend on it for their survival can continue.
In this already tense context, Action Against Hunger makes the following recommendations:
- A political solution must be negotiated urgently. Negotiations must include all parties involved in the conflict, while still taking into account the work and perception of humanitarian organisations by the local population and the armed forces deployed in the area.
- The air-support system of the United Nations, which is already in place in Darfur, must be strengthened, especially the helicopter fleet, to allow humanitarian actors access zones that otherwise cannot be reached.