Friday, April 03, 2009

Darfur, Sudan: Shame on Reuters AlertNet for publishing anonymously authored propaganda

Surely if the anonymous author of the below copied article published by Reuters AlertNet really is a recently expelled international aid worker, he/she would have heeded Sudanese government warnings by now. I am always wary of reprinting anonymous articles, especially if they claim to be authored by a Darfur aid worker. Nine times out of ten, the writings are usually anti-government propaganda. I wonder what the "aid worker" aimed to achieve by publishing the article. To help those left behind on the ground in Darfur? I doubt it, otherwise he/she would not have gone against Sudanese government warnings. Shame on Reuters AlertNet for publishing an anonymous article that brings aid workers into disrepute. The NGOs booted out of Sudan were suspected of spying and political activism. How can the expelled NGOs defend themselves against such accusations when aid workers have no qualms in taking sides and publishing articles that amount to political activism. I am reprinting the article here for the record and have used red to highlight text for my own reference.

From Reuters AlertNet 03 Apr 2009 11:00:00 GMT:
A month since they kicked us out of Sudan
Written by: an international aid worker expelled from Darfur
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Almost exactly a month ago, we were expelled from Darfur. Since then we have spent most days trying to get in touch with friends and colleagues there, hoping to find out what is happening in the communities which we had to leave behind. The reports we are getting from the camps are increasingly alarming.

Over the past six years, people living in the camps have been bombed, raped, robbed and forced from their homes. They have been through suffering that I cannot even imagine, and have had to rely on aid agencies for basics like food, water and shelter. Now even that is being taken from them.

Zam Zam camp in North Darfur has virtually doubled in size in the past two months. 36,000 people have arrived there since the end of January, fleeing fighting between government and rebels.

They are homeless, hungry and desperate, and urgently in need of help. Many are women and children.

Helping so many new arrivals would always be an enormous challenge, but with many of the biggest aid agencies now gone it is going to be nearly impossible.

As a result, these families are not receiving the food and water they need.

In Kalma camp in South Darfur, the situation is even more serious. The entire camp, which shelters 90,000 people, has not received any aid in weeks.

Feeding centres for malnourished children are running out of food. Water pumps have run out of fuel and stopped working. A meningitis outbreak has killed at least two people - there may be more but aid workers are no longer there to confirm it.

The community leaders in Kalma - known as Sheikhs - are refusing to allow the government or any local aid agencies into the camp, and are demanding that the expelled agencies are allowed to return.

The situation is increasingly desperate and I hope, for the sake of the people there, that the stand-off can be resolved soon.

I can understand the community's fears. The government has persecuted people in Kalma for years.

Last August, government police entered the camp one morning and shot 32 people dead. Local officials have repeatedly said that they want to close the camp down and force everyone to move.

Since the International Criminal Court made its announcement a month ago, they say numerous young men from Kalma have been arrested. The community is scared of letting the government in to replace the aid agencies, but nevertheless something must be done to allow aid to reach the community, or we could see a major disaster.

All over Darfur, the question of how to fill the gaps left by the expulsion has not been answered yet.

Many of the local organisations are perceived by the people in the camps as being affiliated to the same government which drove them from their homes in the first place. There are independent local organisations, many of which do incredible work - but most are small and cannot possibly take over projects helping hundreds of thousands of people.

Some international aid agencies remain, but they are already stretched to the limit. Some may be keen to scale up their presence in Darfur - but the infamous Sudanese government bureaucracy means that will take months, while people continue to suffer.

Already some agencies have expressed interest in expanding their work, only to be refused by National Security officials. It makes a mockery of the government's claims that we can all be easily and quickly replaced.

The impact of the expulsions is already being felt in camps like Kalma and Zam Zam. But there are also growing fears about the coming months.

The annual rainy season is approaching. I was in Darfur for last year's rains and saw peoples' flimsy shelters destroyed by floods. Water-borne diseases like cholera and malaria can spread quickly at this time of year.

In previous years, aid agencies have conducted enormous health campaigns to help reduce this. This year, these are unlikely to happen. My old Sudanese colleagues who remain in Darfur fear that there are real risks of a major outbreak of disease.

Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Postscript. Just as I was about to publish this item, I received this anonymously authored comment:
AlertNet has left a new comment on your post
"Reuters list of best websites around for analysis and news on Sudan"

Thanks for the great write-up about our Sudan resources Ingrid! Thought you might like to see the latest update from one of the aid workers recently kicked out of Sudan. Some powerful detail about food and water running out, shortages in child malnutrition centres, big health risks as rainy season comes along:

A month since they kicked us out of Sudan
Further reading:

March 24, 2009 - Sudan Watch: U.S. activist Eric Reeves worked with the ICC Prosecutor on the Bashir/Haroun/Kushayb indictments

March 25, 2009 - Sudan Watch: An aid worker's story: The day they kicked us out of Sudan

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