In Sudan, Guahir ran for her life after the Janjaweed attacked the camp where she was staying. Her youngest child, Nidal, was lost in the chaos but found a day later. Credit: Hege Opseth, ACT/Caritas, October 13, 2004.
The United Nations calls it "a crisis out of control." A 14-year-old resident of an internally displaced persons camp in the region told an aid worker, "We have lost everything." To this place of loss-- the Sudanese region of Darfur-- UMCOR this week dispatched a team of workers. Over the next three weeks the team will explore ways to expand the agency's involvement in delivering aid.
Jennifer Poitras and Ali Aamoum, both professionals in the field of international relief and development, arrived Thursday, Oct. 21, in Khartoum, according to UMCOR Africa program director Marc Maxi. "They will be evaluating gaps in aid efforts and exploring possible partnerships with other agencies," Mr. Maxi said.
Darfur covers a remote area the size of Texas. Its population of seven million is scattered over a harsh desert landscape. In the past year, according to a Reuters report, attacks by government troops and Arab militia have forced about 1.2 million people, mostly black villagers, from their homes. As many as 70,000 have died. Violent raids and massacres account for many deaths. Blamed in others are malnutrition, disease and tainted water. Reports of rape, torture, and looting, despite a nominal ceasefire, continue to emerge from the region.
Through conversations with the donor community in Khartoum-- for example, United Nations agencies coordinating emergency response-- the UMCOR team will examine short-term and long-term relief and development projects, Mr. Maxi said. Expected areas of focus include income-generating activity, water and sanitation facilities in camps, and agricultural development.
United Methodist donations are already supporting UMCOR aid in the area. The agency is currently partnering with an international ecumenical alliance in Chad refugee camps where 130,000 Sudanese have fled from their burned and looted villages. Continuing support will assist further efforts. Donors may send their gifts to Advance #184385, Sudan Emergency. Give through your local United Methodist church or send financial contributions to: UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Call toll-free 1-800-554-8583 to make a credit card donation.
Linda Beher is communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.