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Staffing, logistics and access remain challenging

Tue, 10 Aug 2004

Staffing, logistics and access remain key challenges

Nearly two months after receiving government permission to operate in Sudan, World Vision is poised to become fully operational in South Darfur, working in and around the provincial capital of Nyala where at least a quarter of a million of internally displaced people (IDPs) are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

"We've spent the last few weeks getting ready, making assessments, and learning how things work in Sudan," says Interim Programme Director Ian Ridley. "In the next few days we'll be able to go operational in a big way in all of our sectors -- food, health, water and sanitation. We're ready to roll."

In agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP), World Vision will distribute at least 22,000 metric tonnes of food over the next four to five months to some 250,000 beneficiaries in South Darfur (out of a total IDP population of about 1.2 million throughout the Darfur region).

A dozen or so food distribution sites will be set up at IDP encampments located within a 50-80 km. radius of Nyala, and food assistance is expected to make up about 80% of World Vision's programming in Sudan.

But the displaced people's needs are critical across the board, requiring a full range of relief activities, Ridley explains.

"No matter which sector you look at, the needs of displaced people in South Darfur are absolutely enormous," he says. "The people are living in appalling conditions, their sanitary situation is very bad, malnutrition rates are increasing, and there's a mounting risk that cholera, malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery will spread through the camps, now that the rains have started."

"On the one hand we have the opportunity to scale up our operations rapidly. On the other hand, there are possibly tens of thousands of people out there we can't reach because of the increasingly rainy weather, deteriorating road conditions, and general insecurity."

Staffing, logistics and access are the biggest headaches affecting the Sudan programme and seriously impacting World Vision's operational work.

"There is an elaborate and complex bureaucracy involved in everything you want to do in Sudan," Ridley says. "I've never seen a situation where there have been quite so many constraints. While the bureaucracy has eased in certain areas, it is alive and well in other areas, and we just have to do our best to deal with it.

Logistics is a second major challenge, requiring huge amounts of paper work and waiting time.

"Getting aircraft into Sudan and unloaded, receiving essential equipment like radios and computers, then getting them licensed and installed -- the list goes on, and the bureaucratic burden on our office in Khartoum is larger than it would normally be in a response like this," Ridley says.

Access to IDP camps is also proving difficult, as various roads to and through Darfur have yet to be cleared by UN Security. Other roads have become impassible due to heavy rains that are expected to continue for the next two months.

Such challenges notwithstanding, there has been a great deal of progress by World Vision's Sudan Programme over the past two months, according to Ridley.

"The government is watching to see what we can produce on the ground. Our ability to distribute food, and to do water and sanitation and health activities, will help break down the various barriers and demonstrate to the government [of Sudan] that World Vision is a partner they can trust," Ridley adds.

"Our strategy is to keep our heads down, produce good results, and let those speak for themselves."


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