ME and Ophelia

Saturday, July 17, 2004

WFP only has half the food it needs to feed camp

Meanwhile, the killings continue. And aid workers are being attacked and carjacked. The long forecasted and expected rainy season that normally takes place July - September has started and is hampering relief work. Within the next two weeks huge areas will be cut off by floods and mud.

July 6: Two UNHCR trucks got stuck in a flooded wadi between Abeche, the main city in eastern Chad, and the border town of Adre. One truck managed to drive out while the other remains stuck. "The trucks were empty when they got stuck, which shows how much more difficult it will be soon to travel on these roads with trucks loaded with food, relief supplies or refugees," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing in Geneva Tuesday.

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UNHCR trucks caught in a flooded wadi between Abeche and Breidjing camp in eastern Chad. © UNHCR/C.Sanders

At the same time the above picture was taken, a team from the Norwegian Church Aid was carjacked on the way from Touloum camp to Iridimi camp. The NCA vehicle was flagged down by a man standing along the road, who then pulled out a gun, boarded the pickup and ordered them to drive to the bush, picking up a group of seven heavily armed masked men in military clothing en route. The aid workers were finally released near the town of Bahai at around 4.30 pm. The hijackers removed the NCA and UNHCR logos which were on the doors of the car and drove away. The identity of the attackers is not known.
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July 15: BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson reports from Darfur: "...Many people here spend the entire night sitting upright, unable to lie down in their makeshift shelters because of the torrential rains that have turned the ground into an enormous pool of water. And of course that helps breed disease. The sewage problem is absolutely appalling.

And so what you have is starvation and disease all rolled into one and an absolutely devastating spectacle. Some foreign aid agencies here are trying to improve the situation but the clean water that they are able to provide is not enough for the huge numbers in need of it. On top of that, the World Food Programme at the moment only has half the food it needs to feed the camp.
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Ref the above shocking news from BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson, the World Food Programme has had years of experience to plan these things, it's had 16 months advance warning of the conflict in western Sudan and it has had plenty of money to get food into that camp. Like I said, weeks ago, it's outrageous that there seems to be no accountability. A scandal that they are getting away with spending billions of dollars and not meeting the needs of those who need it most. It's appalling. Heads should roll.

Here is an excerpt from Ethan's post of July 5 where he writes about Darfur and a report of an interview with Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary on humanitarian affairs:

"...Jan Egeland has been the most passionate and persistent voice on the global stage talking about the situation in Darfur. In an interview with the UN's IRIN news service, he clears up a couple of interesting misconceptions about the situation in Darfur. A few points I found interesting:

- He believes the current aid problems are financial ones, not access ones. Aid workers are helping over 800,000 people and are able to reach most of the people who need help, so access is a less serious issue than when Andrew Natsios challenged the Khartoum government.

- While the US, UK and a couple of EU states have stepped to the plate, contributing meaningfully to the relief efforts, most EU and AU nations have not, and the oil-rich Arab states have done nothing.

- While there's been speculation that the attacks by Janjawid have been motivated by a desire to claim land, many of the villages attacked have been destroyed entirely. In many cases, corpses of farm animals have been dumped in wells, rendering those wells useless and the villages uninhabitable..."
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Here's my response to Ethan's post. Here's Jan Egeland once again, blaming it all on finances. I'm sorry, it is just not good enough. As I've not seen Egeland ever apologising, I wonder if he sees the UN and aid agencies as perfect models of efficiency. Yes, he appears to be the most passionate and persistent voice on the global stage talking about the situation in Darfur but I've yet to see a report featuring his name where it does not boil down to saying there is not enough money to get aid to the people who need it most. I guess if there ever was enough money, he'd blame something else, like the weather.

Does anyone (except the UN) say it is good value for money? There might be enough money to feed the whole of Africa if the UN did not cost so many billions. Who measures the efficiency and co-ordination of UN aid agencies? Who co-ordinates all the international relief organisations? How come, right now, the World Food Programme is saying it only has half the food it needs to feed a refugee camp in Africa - victims of a conflict that started 16 months ago (plenty of warning) and now - at a time when the long forecasted (plenty of warning) rainy season has started - it resorts to air dropping 1,400 tonnes of food. Who is on the ground to pick it up and distribute it? If Egeland is saying access was not such a problem, how come the WFP is resorting to massively expensive air drops? And who is on the ground to pick it up and distribute it now that the rainy season is cutting off large areas? How can they be sure it will reach the refugees - or that it will be looted by the Janjaweed?
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To reach 500,000 children in Darfur

This sounds good. Hopefully, the workers on the ground are feeding a lot of intelligence back to the U.N.

July 9: UNICEF and WHO announce 2 million children in Darfur have now been vaccinated against measles, but that an estimated 500,000 more cannot be reached because of prevailing insecurity. In order to reach them, a "Days of Tranquility" declaration, when all armed parties cease fighting to ensure the security of vaccination teams, is urgently needed.

UNICEF and WHO have frequently crossed fighting lines in other conflict-ridden countries during Days of Tranquility to negotiate between warring parties and carry out life-saving vaccination campaigns.

July 15: The UN's World Food Program reached what officials called a "landmark'' agreement with Libya. Libya has flown in humanitarian aid and helped the US with acess and routes into Darfur. Now Libya has allowed ships to dock at the Mediterranean Sea port of Benghazi and for trucks to take an overland route to Chad and Darfur.

Update July 18:

July 15: Squirrel in DC points to BBC report re UN's Jan Egeland statement that Darfur was becoming too dangerous for aid workers.

July 14: BBC report says Darfur security us deteriorating. Here is an excerpt: "The United Nations' top emergency relief official has warned that the security situation in Sudan's Darfur region is becoming more difficult. Jan Egeland, who has just visited Darfur, said relief supplies had been looted and humanitarian workers attacked by militia. Mr Egeland told a news conference progress was being made in reaching the refugees. However, he said, Darfur was becoming too dangerous for aid workers. "We are now in this moment of truth, which will last for some weeks. "My worst scenario is that the security will deteriorate, that we will step back at a moment we have to actually step up [emergency relief]." Mr Egeland said aid workers were being attacked and emergency supplies stolen. He said the government had to do "much more to disarm the infamous Janjaweed militia".
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We need two things: Water and an English department

Here is another excerpt from the report on Sudan by well known British journalist AA Gill who recently returned from the region. This extract from the report entitled WELCOME TO HELL, follows two pages of heart wrenching testimony:

"...In another refugee camp, at Touloum, a boy, perhaps 20, approaches me. He is wearing a once-smart sports jacket and trousers and - a rare thing - spectacles. "You speak English?" he asks. "I was a student of English in Darfur at the university. I was in my second year." He looks round the ragged shelters. "This is a bad place, very bad. We need two things: water and an English department."

I think he means it as a joke; it's a bleakly funny line. But he is absolutely serious. He is close to tears and I understand what a struggle it must have been to get to university at all, what a monumental investment, not just for him but his family, his village, this slightly bookish boy in his western charity clothes and wise glasses, already approaching statistical middle age, cast out as homeless, begging flotsam among a diaspora of grieving women. It is such a pitiful waste. A damnable squandering of this heroic spark..."
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Coincidentally, Jim Moore has posted a picture of a list of massacres, compiled by refugees in the same camp as the young man mentioned above: Touloum refugee camp, Chad, along with this caption "The refugees are desperate to have their stories told - they want the world to know where, when, what and who." See Jim's unusual photo.

Note, at the Passion of the Present blog the latest major news developments on Sudan are updated daily.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 7/17/2004
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