Nov. 16, 2004
|A UMNS photo courtesy of USAID
displaced women in North Darfur wait for food. The United Nations
estimates 1.6 million have been pushed from their homes in Sudan.
By Linda Beher*
YORK (UMNS)—The United Methodist Committee on Relief, currently serving
Sudanese refugees in Chad, is preparing to provide more direct services
to the Sudan.
UMCOR will extend its efforts with displaced people inside the violence-torn Darfur section of Sudan by mid-December.
investigative team, which spent three weeks in the area for the
denomination’s relief agency, found continuing need for basic relief
efforts, for steps to ward off famine and for preparation to help people
return to their homes. UMCOR has become a registered provider of direct
services inside the country.
United Nations estimates that 70,000 people have been killed and 1.6
million pushed from their homes by a months-old rampage supported by the
government of Sudan. International efforts to bring a halt to the
violence have been unsuccessful.
Poitras, UMCOR assessment team member, described the killing and
plunder primarily as a land-grab by "pastoral people," most of whom are
Arabs, directed against "agricultural" or settled people, most of whom
are African. The government has backed the Arab militia, known as the
Janjaweed. Virtually all of the people in Darfur are Muslim.
explained that Darfur, which is about the size of Texas, has three
regions: north, south and west. Most of the attacks on the settled
villages have been in the west, and survivors have fled into Chad and
the southern region. UMCOR will initially concentrate on the south, with
a priority on distributing essential emergency supplies such as
buckets, plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and soap.
am pleased that we were able to send our own investigative team into
Darfur to get a firsthand view of the situation," said the Rev. R. Randy
Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, which includes UMCOR.
United Methodist General Conference, the legislative body of the 11
million-member denomination, instructed the mission agency last May to
monitor and report on conditions in Darfur, as well as to provide
humanitarian assistance, Day noted.
work by UMCOR’s investigative team is one of the few independent
inspections being allowed by Sudan’s government. Day thanked staff and
friends of UMCOR in relief and diplomatic arenas for helping make the
of the refugees in South Darfur have little food or shelter and no way
to cook but seem more afraid of attack, Poitras said.
with political violence, Darfur is facing the likelihood of famine in
the near future, she said. The agricultural system has broken down, she
said. Seed, poultry, farm animals and equipment have been lost.
The southern part of
the area, where UMCOR will operate, is seen as a good staging location
for the eventual reintegration of the people of Darfur.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of USAID
Villagers in West Darfur walk among what remains of their homes and possessions.
will initially make a modest, undisclosed investment in the Darfur
operation. It will solicit additional funds from United Methodists and
from governmental and international donors.
must become even more active in providing assistance and in advocating
for international action to stop the violence," Day said. "We must
continue and increase both humanitarian and diplomatic efforts."
urged "the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and
the United States to intensify efforts aimed at persuading Khartoum to
end the violence and prepare for the return of the refugees."
is partnering with an international ecumenical alliance in Chad refugee
camps, where 130,000 Sudanese have fled from their burned and looted
villages. Continuing support by donors will assist the new efforts
inside Darfur. Donors may send their gifts to Advance #184385, Sudan
Emergency, in care of UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY
10115. To donate using a credit card, contributors may call, toll free,
*Beher is communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.