With the recent expulsion of 13 aid agencies from Sudan, it's estimated that as many as a million people may be at risk of not getting enough food, water and medical care. The Sudanese government ordered the expulsions after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The International Rescue Committee is one of NGOs ordered out. Kurt Tjossemis the IRC's regional director for the Horn and East Africa. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the effects of the expulsions on Darfur.
"I think it's a critical time. Nothing is emanating yet on the ground, but I think that was due to agencies like our own (being) able to pre-position some stocks, say medical supplies, in the clinics that we operate. For example…in Kalma camp, where there's more than 90,000 displaced population…we were able to pre-position drugs, medical supplies for a period of about a month. Likewise, we were able to also pre-position fuel in locations where we provide water. However, that was maximum two weeks," he says.
Fuel is need to operate pumps at water boreholes. Some of the other agencies expelled were not able to pre-position fuel supplies for the pumps. However, Tjossem says, "I know that other agencies on the ground are trying to fill the gaps by supplying fuel for boreholes.… Although staff do tell us that there are a couple of camps where there is no water and local vendors have started to provide water that the displaced population is paying for."
He warns, though, it may be just a short-term solution and that the water from local vendors may not be treated to make it safe for drinking. That could result in health problems in the coming weeks.
With the expulsion of 13 aid agencies, how many are left? The IRC regional director says, "There's a pretty large number of agencies. I think the number was between 80 and 100. The difference though is that the 13 that were expelled are the largest and basically have provided 60 percent of the humanitarian assistance across Darfur. So, I think it will be a substantial impact. I think in the short term the government, the UN agencies and the remaining NGOs…are planning some sort of…assistance so that the impact is not as grave as it could (be)."
If water is no longer available in certain locations or camps, the displaced may be forced to re-locate.
The International Rescue Committee has been operating programs in Sudan for nearly 30 years. These include helping local NGOs and community-based organizations run healthcare, water and livelihood programs. In Darfur, the IRC concentrates on healthcare services at some of the large camps for the displaced, as well as water, sanitation and education projects. "Altogether, we support roughly 650,000 people," says Tjossem.
He says that if the ban on the NGOs is
lifted soon, the IRC may be able to resume operations fairly quickly. The
longer the ban is in effect, the more difficult it becomes.