by Hege Opseth, working for the Caritas/Act consortium in Darfur
Darfur - 28/9/2004. The Caritas/Act target area Taaisha is experiencing a huge influx of new arrivals. Fighting have erupted and forced at least five thousand to flee their homes the last three days. They seek shelter under trees, waiting without food, water or shelter.
Thousands of people have sought refugee in the Hasaba, Bashom and Burga camps.
They are sitting under trees, seeking some comfort from the burning sun. Most of them left without any or very little belongings. We ran away with food for two days. It has now run out and my children are hungry, says a mother of three children aged 14, nine and four years old. Another women explain how Janjaweed came on horses and camels, followed by soldiers from GOS (Goverment of Sudan). They started shooting at us and looted everything in the village, she says. Villagers claim as many as 300 soldiers participated in the attacks.
Since Caritas/Act started working in the area, the number of internally displaced people have exploded.
We are extremely concerned. These people risk being totally cut off and they are at risk of famine. Caritas/Act also wish to put forward the message that there are still ongoing attacks directed at innocent civilians and the number of IDPs keep increasing. Our greatest worry now is how we will be able to reach these people, in this highly insecure and dangerous situation, says programme manager Jose Simsa.
Fieldstaff on the ground heard gunshots near by when fighting erupted on the 25th of September. Then hundreds and thousands of people started moving towards established camps in the area.At the moment there is no shelter, water, sanitation, medical care or food available for new arrivals. Last week ACT/Caritas have been distributing plastic sheeting and jerrycans to new arrivals already registered.
The new massive influx is putting a huge pressure on getting aid out to the people.
Mothers are sitting in the open space and some under the trees, trying to comfort their children. The worst is to see the look in their eyes, they are so traumatised, so much in pain, so desperate for help. Women we spoke to also said they feared what will now happen, they no longer have enough food to feed their children, says health promotion officer Ismat Saeed and continues: One man told me that his daughter (30) was kidnapped by Janjaweed. He does not know if any other women were kidnapped or raped as the situation was very caotic.
Caritas/Act fieldstaff are having an emergency meeting to discuss how to best cope with the new situation in Taaisha area. Taglia, Gurugu, Faz Kadab, Amore (Bahar Anil) and Hamidia were the villages attacked. Local leaders tells Caritas/Act they are expecting more new arrivals to come.