ME and Ophelia

Sunday, July 18, 2004

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Next week WFP will air drop 1,400 tons of food

A report from South Africa quotes aid agencies as saying on July 16 that heavy rains in western Sudan's Darfur region - and in neighbouring Chad - are further hampering aid for hundreds of thousands of displaced people as malnutrition sets in.

Yesterday, the UN refugee agency said it has managed to bring about 130 000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring Chad to relative shelter further inside the country in recent months. But several thousand more were stranded in the border area, including about 15,000 refugees from Darfur around the border town of Bahai, according to the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

"Torrential rains, sandstorms and strong winds are worsening the problems of Sudanese refugees in Chad and hampering the relief effort," said UNHCR's Ron Redmond. "Heavy rains in northeastern Chad have driven refugees out of their makeshift shelters in the seasonal riverbeds, which have flooded," he said.

Efforts were under way to move those remaining in the rain-sodden areas, but the spread of the seasonal rains had now cut off roads and slowed the relief effort across most of the region, Redmond said.

The UNHCR also warned of a "serious crisis", after surveys by a medical team found acute malnutrition levels in refugee camps, especially about 38% of children. "The team concluded that, without immediate corrective action, the combination of these factors might lead to increases in serious illness and death," said Redmond.

Local Chadians were sharing food with the refugees despite also having "high levels" of malnutrition, he added.

The long-forecast rains were also affecting Darfur, where about 1.2 million people have fled their homes after attacks by government-backed militia and fighting between government forces and rebels, said the UN World Food Programme.

"Roads have been flooded, and cut off because of insecurity," said WFP's Simon Pluess, adding that the rain was also hampering attempts to bring food overland from nearby African countries.

WFP is planning a first airdrop of 1,400 tons of food next week into areas of Darfur cut off by rainfall. The World Health Organisation warned on Thursday that a major health catastrophe could erupt in the west Sudanese region if funds and supplies were not made available to fight disease and malnutrition. (See my vent re aid agencies further down below).

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 7/18/2004
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