Sunday, October 03, 2004

International aid workers: Darfur crisis "wildly exaggerated" 

It's all an American conspiracy:
"American warnings that Darfur is heading for an apocalyptic humanitarian catastrophe have been widely exaggerated by administration officials, it is alleged by international aid workers in Sudan. Washington's desire for a regime change in Khartoum has biased their reports, it is claimed.

"The government's aid agency, USAID, says that between 350,000 and a million people could die in Darfur by the end of the year. Other officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, have accused the Sudanese government of presiding over a 'genocide' that could rival those in Bosnia and Rwanda.

"But the account has been comprehensively challenged by eyewitness reports from aid workers and by a new food survey of the region. The nutritional survey of Sudan's Darfur region, by the UN World Food Programme, says that although there are still high levels of malnutrition among under-fives in some areas, the crisis is being brought under control.

" 'It's not disastrous,' said one of those involved in the WFP survey, 'although it certainly was a disaster earlier this year, and if humanitarian assistance declines, this will have very serious negative consequences'...

"While none of the aid workers and officials interviewed by The Observer denied there was a crisis in Darfur - or that killings, rape and a large-scale displacement of population had taken place - many were puzzled that it had become the focus of such hyperbolic warnings when there were crises of similar magnitude in both northern Uganda and eastern Congo."
The report ends with a dig at USAID as having allegedly become "politicised", since "two of its most senior officials have long held strong personal views" about Sudan. God help us that people should have strong personal view about anything. Where will it end? Aid agencies might acquire strong personal views about helping people.

What the aid workers and officials quoted in the "Guardian" article are saying is basically this: yep, Darfur was pretty bad but it's better now, and what's the big deal anyway, since there are many other crises around the world? In other words: move on; nothing to see here.

The US might of course have some nefarious private agenda. Maybe it wants Sudan's oil, or maybe it's on a crusade against all radical Islamic governments in the region. Then again, if that's the case, why hasn't anything actually happened in Darfur? Surely the invasion of Iraq has shown that if the US wants something the US gets it, with or without the UN's permission. If the US is "hyping up" the crisis, conversely the "international community" has all the motives in the world to try to downplay the crisis in Sudan, having done nothing to actually stop it.

According to the United Nations estimates, some 50,000 have died and over a million were displaced in Darfur recently. According to the World Health Organisation between 6,000 and 10,000 people are dying every month among the refugee population of 1.2 million. Meanwhile, the first scientific study of the crisis, led by Evelyn Depoortere of the French medical survey group Epicentre, and done in collaboration with Medecins sans Frontieres (no connection to the USAID), has just been published in the medical journal "The Lancet." It describes the toll from violence and displacement in Darfur as a "demographic catastrophe." And Muireann Kirrane, Emergency Programme Officer with Trocaire, the Irish Catholic Church charity (also no connection to USAID) writes:
"The situation in Darfur is going from bad to worse, with October predicted as the time when death tolls will rise significantly. The dreaded rains arrived in August and with them countless additional problems for the one million people struggling to survive out in the desert. Having spent the past two months in Darfur, I find it increasingly difficult to see light at the end of this tunnel for some of these people."
That's all pretty bad by any standards. But let's talk about America "hyping it up" instead.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?