“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Gunshot Wounds

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The situation in Darfur looks no closer to any meaningful resolution, and still some people in the West fiddle, like Nero whilst Rome burnt.

The Yorkshire Post covers some of the issues in this article:

“It is four years since violence erupted in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government.

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes, with the government accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia, known as the Janjaweed, against civilians in a systematic campaign of terror.

The continuing violence has spilled into neighbouring Chad, and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of humanitarian agencies, has launched a desperate appeal to raise money and save lives.

“The urgency before the rainy season, expected in the next few weeks, is massive,” says Linda Edwards, who leads medical charity Merlin’s programme in Darfur, and warns the situation is deteriorating.

“The more of an impact we can have in advance the better. Sometimes in some of the camps we are only scraping the surface.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is one of the aid organisations working on the frontline.

Project co-ordinator Jonathan Henry has just returned home after spending 18 months based in Muhajariya, a rebel stronghold in the south of the region.

The 30 year-old, from Leeds, says the situation has worsened since he arrived in 2005.

“It is still a massive humanitarian disaster and the level of suffering has become dramatically worse.

“We were the only agency in Muhajariya when I left because the other organisation had evacuated because of security.”

The town has come under heavy attack from government-backed forces. But as is so often the case in times of war, it is the innocent who suffer most.

When I left, 90 per cent of the patients in our 60-bed hospital were women and children under five,” says Henry.

Gunshot wounds are a major cause of injury but if the bullets don’t get you, disease probably will.

“There’s a lot of severe malnutrition, with children having lost nearly half their body weight because they can’t access food, and they can’t go and farm the land because it’s too dangerous.

“We are seeing an increase in water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Malaria is endemic in Darfur, we saw outbreaks of meningitis and measles, and mortality rates are increasing.”

One of the main problems is a lack of access to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled their home.

Henry says that the chain of command between different factions on both sides has broken down, which has intensified the level of ethnic violence.

MSF’s charter is to provide basic health care, including child vaccinations and clean water, but medics face increasingly hazardous conditions.

“Over 120 humanitarian agency vehicles were stolen last year, and we had two vehicles taken at gunpoint.

“We had staff abducted and seven were beaten despite them all wearing the MSF T-shirts.”

When Muhajariya was attacked last October, its population was about 47,000, but this has dwindled to 13,000.

It is a situation mirrored throughout Darfur where the number of indiscriminate attacks has escalated.

“These so-called militia on camels with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades go into towns and torch them shooting men, women and children.”

Henry’s MSF team consisted of nine medics, doctors and logisticians from all over the world, as well as more than 200 local Sudanese staff.

During attacks they took refuge in an underground bomb shelter.

“Afterwards, we would rush down to the hospital and set up drips, the surgeons would be operating for 48 hours virtually non-stop on these gunshot wounds.”

His team also provided mobile medical clinics that took them to the frontline where they would treat the wounded and transport the more seriously injured back to the town’s hospital.

“We would have a huge influx of gunshot wound victims, usually at night because it was safer to travel when it was dark.

“About seven weeks ago, we had 60 victims brought in – this was women and children as well as soldiers.”

Henry warns the situation is becoming increasingly chaotic with many refugees flooding into already over-populated areas.

Many of the camps, some spread over a 15-mile radius, consist of nothing more than a sea of makeshift tents, with no protection from the elements or local militia.

“Many of these refugees are dispersed among bushes in the middle of the desert. They drink muddy water from pools full of bacteria that carry water-borne diseases.

“They have no food because they’ve had to abandon their land, they have no shelter in 50 degree heat and no health care.”

MSF’s political independence allows them to be “doctors without borders”, as Henry puts it. But aid agencies say they are being increasingly hampered by local military leaders and behind-the-scenes politics.

“You see the same people being displaced and you see the same gunshot wounds which can be incredibly frustrating,” he admits.”

Written by modernityblog

06/06/2007 at 16:09

Posted in Uncategorized

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