Caritas draws attention to Darfur as crisis reaches 10 years

Mother and daughter in Darfur, photo by Caritas

Media Release, 23 April, 2013

CARITAS Australia, the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church, has urged the world not to forget the people of Darfur in Sudan’s western region as the conflict now exceeds 10 years.

CEO Jack de Groot said Darfur remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises over the last decade, with millions of people still in need of humanitarian aid.

“Many Darfuris continue to struggle on a daily basis just to get by,” Mr de Groot said.

“At Caritas we centre all our work on children, women and men, the most vulnerable to extreme poverty and injustice. At this time we urge the world to not forget the continuous suffering being experienced by people of Darfur.

Mariam, Darfur. Photo by Caritas

“Life is extremely difficult in the camps, but families receive healthcare, food, water and other essentials funded through Caritas and the ACT Alliance of Protestant and Orthodox Church organisations.”

Mr de Groot said in 2013 alone, the Caritas Internationalis network in partnership with the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance would invest almost AUD $9.6 million in building Darfuri communities’ resilience to help them face hardship and become self-sufficient.

“The aim of the unique ecumenical coalition is to help Darfuris become more self-reliant and to provide important services to communities,” Mr de Groot said.

The Caritas network together with the ACT Alliance has been supporting projects in Darfur since 2004, as part of a major emergency program organised by the two main international church-based networks.

Under a new Strategic Vision set by the alliance in 2010, the ACT-Caritas Darfur Emergency Response program moved away from the direct provision of services towards a “livelihoods” approach that aims to help communities to support themselves in sustainable ways.

Despite the many challenges encountered in the decade since it was launched, the program remains one of the largest aid agency programs in Darfur – providing assistance to around 500,000 people, employing over 300 staff.
The program provides clean water and sanitation, through boreholes and solar powered water systems, health clinics and training, treatments for malnutrition, schools, seeds, tools and training, livelihood assistance and peace-building initiatives between communities.

It is help that mothers like Darfuri, Mariam Abdullah Adam, desperately need.

Mariam doesn’t usually have enough milk to breastfeed her child and receives help from nutrition teams in the camps.

With support from ACT Alliance and Caritas, local staff from Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) seek out mothers and children who don’t have enough food. Other mothers who know of NCA come directly to the health and nutrition centres – large thatched rooms with scales, height-checkers, and sacks of a corn-soy blend that provides protein and more.

The nutrition program provides a vital safety net for hungry women and children who have no other options in Darfur’s teeming camps. “I knew I’d get help here,” said Mariam.

It’s lifesaving programs like these that are giving Darfuris like Mariam the basics they need to survive, but 10 years on, the future of thousands of other Darfuris just like her in the troubled region remains uncertain.

Media contact: Nicole Clements – 0408 869 833 or Nicolec@caritas.org.au

Please note: Images and video footage from Darfur are available on request.