Darfur

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Marie BApril 4, 2008DarfurViolence in the Darfur region of Sudan has left more than 400,000 people dead in the last three years and pushed more than 2.5 million people out of their homes, as well as making at least a million more dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. The violence started with conflicts between rebel groups and governments private army, the Janjaweed, who attacked the black African villages of Darfur in retaliation for rebel attacks. As the conflicts go on, Catholic continues to work in the region, providing the bare necessities of life to people who have lost the resources to provide for themselves.

In Darfur it's a very violent situation right now. There are lots of soldiers, there are lots of bandits, there's fighting in Chad. It's just a very volatile situation in Darfur in general and especially in west Darfur where we're working. There have been several soldiers attacks in recent weeks.

There have been lots of rebel and soldiers clashes. Things have calmed down in El Geneina, the main town of west Darfur where we worked, but it's a very changeable situation.

The vast majority are displaced from their homes. People are making it a point to support people who are vulnerable but are in what we call host communities. People are displaced and they move into an area, and the simple fact that they are there means tensions are raised. They're looking for firewood, because they need to cook their food. So there is a tension over resources. We need to make sure we are conscious of those tensions and that part of the mechanism for making sure those tensions doesn’t get out of control. Making sure we are taking care of the needs of some of the vulnerable people in the host community. That's a bit of a mouthful, but you get the idea. There are many other vulnerable people besides those who are displaced. It would be a distortion if you said you can only receive aid if you leave your home. We are looking at people who are vulnerable to the general situation. But there are over 2.5 million people who have been displaced. Push that number up to 3 and half, 4 million. There are at least 3 and half million people who are vulnerable.

There are people who are falling through the cracks. At times, the level of aid is a constraint. At times, it's the insecurity that's the constraint. I wouldn't say we're chronically short of funding. At times, the insecurity is the big constraint. If you look at the way funding is done in our government the U.S. government is the biggest supporter of aid in Darfur. It is doing a lot. Could the U.S. government or others do more? Sure. There are times when aid is the constraint. But let's say there are 100,000 vulnerable people in one area. You don't just say, should we go out and serve them or not? You have to set all that up. You don't just say, "Hey, the food's here." There have been a lot of newly displaced-in the hundreds of thousands in the last several months. There are huge constraints in trying to continue to serve those we are serving, and most of those constraints are security. But there are certain areas of need that don't get served at times because of the lack of funding.

They should know that they do have a Catholic organization that is working with the Sudanese church, with vulnerable people and international organizations in Darfur to provide aid. I would also say if they're interested in learning more, if they're interested in doing more, they can go to our Web site (sudan.crs.org) for information. If certain local groups are interested in doing more. There's a lot that people can do. They can learn about a situation, they can form interest groups, they can donate to humanitarian organization.