The figures are startling for what has been called “the forgotten war” – Darfur.
The continuing conflict between the government of Sudan and the southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army began in 2004 and has, according to United Nations estimates, killed more than 200,000 people, left more than 2.5 million homeless and more than 4 million caught in the crossfire. But with many man-made and natural calamities competing for attention and aid, Sudan has, sadly, slipped from the world’s radar.
However, church groups, among them the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International and Caritas Internationalis, have continued to respond to the humanitarian crisis spawned by the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur provinces. (The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada and a member of ACT International, has since 2004, released $130,021 in support of relief and rehabilitation efforts in Sudan.)
Through the Darfur Emergency Response Operation (DERO), ACT International, along with some 60 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox organizations, has delivered services to those affected by the conflict. In 2006, it delivered basic services to 325,000 people, most of them refugees living in camps. Services include shelter, clean water and sanitation, and health clinics. The relief efforts have not been without a price: in June, an ACT-Caritas staff member was killed.
Last December, the ACT-Caritas DERO Appeal aimed to raise $12.9 million to enable it to continue its humanitarian responses in Darfur. The need is urgent, according to the church groups. “There were hopes that the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in Abuja in May 2006, would bring some peace to the region and permit the process of rehabilitation and recovery to start. Unfortunately, this has not happened, and the humanitarian environment has deteriorated easily,” the group said recently. “The violence has spread across the border into Chad, and there is a clear risk of a regional conflict breaking out. In this extremely difficult situation, it has become even more important to sustain a humanitarian operation in response to the needs of the most vulnerable people.”
In August, the UN Security Council voted to send 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, but they may not be in place until 2008. The UN peacekeeping force will combine with the African Mission in Sudan and will have authority to use force to protect civilians and assist in the delivery of relief supplies