Reports say violence against civilians remains a major problem in Sudan’s Darfur region. Many observers have blamed the janjaweed militias for the attacks, which reportedly have left hundreds dead, injured or raped in recent months. Darfur is divided into three states, and conditions can vary in each.
One of the agencies working in the region is OXFAM. Nicki Bennett is a spokesperson for the relief group. From the town of Kebkabyia in North Darfur, she spoke by satellite phone to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about conditions in the region.
She says, “I think you can say that over the past year things in Darfur have been improving, but they simply haven’t improved enough. The situation on the ground is still grim. I think the scale of what is happening in Darfur is mind-boggling. Over two million people are still displaced and some of them living in camps for over two years now.”
She says that during her visit she met a mother of seven, who arrived in Kebkabyia two years ago after walking for five days through the mountains. Ms. Bennett says, “The town where she is right now…used to be home to 20,000 people. There’s now more than 60,000 people living here and have been living in very cramped conditions for nearly two years. The (relief) agencies are obviously doing their best to address the public health risks of people living together on such cramped space, but there’s a lot to be done. Also, this time of year is traditionally the period where people go through the annual hunger gap, which means that they’re waiting on the harvest, which comes in the Autumn during the rainy season. During this period it’s traditionally very lean and it’s hard to get food. The prices go up in the markets anyway. This year it’s even worse because people have not been able to go home and plant their crops.”
It’s expected many of the displaced will be completely dependent on aid agencies through October of next year. Violence continues in Darfur, including increasing attacks on the displaced. The OXFAM spokesperson says, “Insecurity is one of the main challenges facing Darfur. There’s insecurity every day. There have been improvements on that, especially through the arrival of the African Union forces, which are also here in Kebkabyia, and they have made many of the towns quite a lot safer.”
However, there are many dangerous areas outside of the AU reach. Ms. Bennett says, “At the moment, nobody I spoke to is planning to return to their villages…the road between Kebkabyia and El Fasher that people need to travel to get to the state capital; I’ve been told security incidents occur on a daily basis. People are terrified of using the road. The aid agencies can’t use the road and have to deliver the supplies to Kebkabyia by helicopter, which makes it all a lot more difficult.”