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).