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WHO Survey Finds Thousands Die Every Month in Darfur - 2004-09-13

The World Health Organization says a survey conducted in Sudan's Darfur Region shows that between 6000 and 10,000 internally displaced people die every month. The survey was jointly conducted by WHO and Sudan's Ministry of Health, between June 15 and August 15.

This is the first time the World Health Organization has tried to assess how many of Darfur's 1.2 million internally displaced people die each month from disease, violence and malnutrition.

About 9000 people were surveyed, mainly in Northern and Western Darfur. WHO Health Crisis Chief, David Nabarro, says aid workers in southern Darfur were unable to complete the survey in that area because they were held up at gunpoint, threatened and robbed by criminal gangs.

He says data from Northern Darfur show that 1.5 people per 10,000 die every day. This, he says, is three times higher than the mortality rate for poor communities in Africa that are not in crisis. He says the death rate among internally displaced people in Western Darfur is six times higher. And, he notes a survey carried out in one camp in southern Darfur shows an even higher mortality rate of 3.8 per 10,000.

"1500 is the normal death rate for a poor population like Darfur. 3000 is the death rate for this displaced population at the lower limit of a humanitarian crisis. I think we are between 6000 and 10,000, which means we are still in a pretty deep humanitarian crisis," said Dr. Nabarro.

Dr. Nabarro says the death toll is particularly high among children. He says the main causes of death are diarrhea and injury or violence. He says people are dying because they lack safe drinking water, do not have enough latrines, and suffer from malnutrition. He calls these deaths unacceptably high.

"They are higher than East Timor," he noted. "They are higher than Balkans data. They are higher than some of the Iraq data we had in 1991. They are comparable with what we had in Rwanda during the bad times. What is disturbing to us is that we are six months into this emergency and, they [the data] reflect the fact that we have still got a huge humanitarian challenge ahead of us."

Dr. Nabarro says the results of the survey show that, in order to bring down the death rates, relief agencies must work harder to improve water supplies, washing facilities and sanitation in the camps. He says security must be strengthened, so people do not become victims of violence. And, he says, camp management must be improved to make sure the people who most need assistance receive it.