ME and Ophelia

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Current aid relief is meeting only 40 percent of the critical needs

Apologies to readers for no original commentary in the past few posts. I am over tired through posting a whole series of updates here (please keep scrolling) in which I have written my take on things. I stayed up very late last night posting about the appalling aid situation - that turned into a vent - and lo and behold woke up this morning to find the BBC have been reporting on the aid situation almost every few hours today.

My thoughts since last night are that I would like to see the Head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, head up coordination of aid from international aid agencies. UN Jan Egeland is clearly not up to the job. It's a massive and complex operation that requires quality military precision, planning, efficiency and reliability. Surely it can be conducted out of England or UN HQ. The multi billion dollar business of humanitarian aid relief must get its act together - they've had enough years. Bring in the expertise and leadership of the British Army to sort them out. If the British Army cannot be inside Sudan right now - because the Sudanese government is refusing all offers of help - then at least we in the West can try to help the refugees by using first rate expertise, training, planning, equipment and technology - not to mention all the other special resources, contacts, networks at our disposal.

Tomorrow I shall email my MP Oliver Letwin to suggest that General Sir Mike Jackson (along with as many staff as he needs) oversees the distribution of aid to Chad and Sudan to ensure it reaches those in need. The whole relief effort needs doubling within a matter of hours (it can't wait days, weeks, months) and since the past 16 months of effort from people like Jan Egeland has been a 60 percent failure - then it is crucial that someone else - of top drawer ability - takes charge temporarily and leads and directs operations.

If I had the energy, and know-how, I'd set up a petition online calling for Downing Street to put Sir General Mike Jackson in charge of the relief effort for Chad and Sudan so my MP could see some evidence of public support for our military handling the logistics of aid distribution. Britain is the largest cash donor - we need to ensure that what the UK is paying for, is used to maximum effect. No doubt the taxpayers and donors in many other countries would agree.

Please excuse if any part of this post sounds disjointed - I am extremely over tired, cannot spend any time on editing this down and realise I may have not produced a tight enough argument to support my suggestion - but deep down I know it is a good suggestion (that the GoS can't take offence at because it is not military intervention) that can start happening within 24 hours of the nod and not having to wait for UN Resolutions and deadlines. General Jackson can be monitoring and assessing the situation through the distribution of aid and feedback he gets for the reasons of any of the aid failing to reach the refugees in Chad and Darfur.

July 25: Report by International Rescue Committee (IRC) - copied here in full - on why relief efforts for war-displaced in Darfur and Chad must be doubled now:

The international humanitarian response to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, and eastern Chad must be boosted immediately and dramatically to save hundreds of thousands of lives that may be lost because of rising levels of disease and malnutrition.

IRC health teams in Darfur and Chad report increasing cases of diarrhea and dysentery and the growing threat of cholera and other predatory diseases such as measles and typhoid. According to the World Health Organization, a cholera epidemic striking up to 300,000 could break out within weeks now that heavy rains have begun. Once the rains subside, we fear a devastating outbreak of malaria.

“The existing health crisis in Darfur is greatly exacerbated by a capacity and logistics crisis,” says IRC president George Rupp. “Even with UN and international aid groups ramping up humanitarian assistance, current capacity in the region is by best estimates meeting only 40 percent of the critical needs of the displaced population.”

When health and social services are interrupted by war, death rates soar. The IRC documented this in the Democratic Republic of Congo where our mortality surveys found that between 1999 and 2003, over 3 million people died, most of them from disease in the absence of a functioning health system.

“To ensure that mortality rates do not increase to this horrific level in Sudan,” emphasized Rupp, “the international community must significantly boost the humanitarian delivery of basic health, water, sanitation and food services to Chad and Darfur right now.”

Vast security and logistical improvements, unhindered access, and a doubling, if not tripling of humanitarian relief programs are necessary to meet the needs of 1.2 million uprooted Sudanese. This will require a focused and cooperative effort by the UN, the African Union (AU), major international and regional powers, the donor community and NGOs. While we recognize that efforts are underway with the Government of Sudan to work through political and security issues, we urge that the same effort, if not more, be focused on doubling humanitarian capacity on the ground.

The IRC calls on the UN Security Council, UN member states and the larger international community to explore the following options for delivering assistance in a permissive and a non-permissive environment:

1) Accelerate diplomatic, political and military efforts to improve security and access within Darfur.
· Strengthen the mandate of the African Union Protection Force to include protection and assistance for the civilian delivery of humanitarian aid. · Consider a no-fly zone over Darfur and along the Chad/Sudan border to protect civilians and permit the scaling up of rescue and relief operations.

2) Ramp up the logistical capacity to double the delivery of aid. · Seek additional civil and military logistical and material support from UN member states to ensure the civilian delivery of aid.
· Boost UN and NGO capabilities for coordination and management of regional relief efforts and support the establishment of a logistics base for humanitarian relief activities. · Expand Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) to include Darfur. Use the OLS airbase in Lokichokio, Kenya, to airlift material and supplies to western Sudan.

3) Increase funding and resources for the UN and the African Union. · Provide urgent support to the African Union with funding, supplies, transport, vehicles, command, communication and leadership.
· Fund the pending UN humanitarian appeals (currently funded at only 40 percent).

Founded in 1933, the IRC is a global leader in relief, rehabilitation, protection, post-conflict development and resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by persecution and violent conflict. The IRC has been providing humanitarian assistance in Sudan for more than 20 years. For more information, visit CONTACT: Sandra Mitchell (DC) 202-822-0166, ext. 10 Melissa Winkler (NY) 212-551-0972.
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Further reading:

July 25: Aid agencies in Chad brace for more Sudan refugees. Fresh fighting could push them over the frontier and relief workers have also received reports that the displaced are unhappy with efforts by Sudanese authorities to move them to new camps. Those people may decide to head for Chad instead. 'The first thing we have to identify is where we could put the people,' said Geoff Wordley, a senior emergency officer with the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR liaising with other aid groups.

'We agreed that the planning figure would be for 200,000.' Struggling with one of the world's worst humanitarian crises in harsh desert and savannah terrain, aid workers say finding water to supply refugee sites and potential new camps stretching over 600 km (375 miles) ranks among their biggest problems.

UNHCR has called in Alain Gachet, a French expert in exploring for oil, gold and other precious resources for big multinational companies, to use radar satellite technology he has pioneered to find likely sites of underground water."

July 25: Aid agencies are restoring food supplies to two refugee camps in Chad after operations were suspended for several days because of violence. Another 5,000 people are outside one of the camps, currently without food.

July 25: On Sunday night a plane loaded with Oxfam aid for Sudanese refugee camps will fly from England to an airstrip in Darfur. Oxfam's Adrian McIntyre is based in Darfur. He tells BBC News Online of the difficulties of getting aid to those who most need it.

July 25: Aid workers who were forced to leave two refugee camps in Chad because of violence have resumed their operations.
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Update Sunday July 25:

Warm thanks for great and speedy response from Crazy Canuck in Canada.

July 26: Sudanese President Bashir has brushed off mounting international concern over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, accusing the West of using the issue to 'target Islam'." (like Jim Moore says, you can't make this stuff up).

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 7/25/2004
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