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NZers asked to dig deep for Darfur

28 November 2006

Kiwi Aid Worker asks New Zealanders to dig deep to help fleeing Darfur refugees

- ChildFund NZ Launches Darfur Emergency Appeal -

A United Nations report released last week on Darfur said the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance now stands at 4 million people. This has doubled since the start of 2005. Jan England, United Nations Emergency Relief Co-ordinator stated the refugees “…are dependent on international assistance to survive the future. There is no economy…There is nothing to sustain them except the international lifeline”.

A Kiwi working for international aid agency ChildFund in the African nation of Chad says the flood of Darfur refugees fleeing across the border from Sudan to escape violence is stretching already scarce resources and the situation is desperate.

Levin woman Maureen Duffy, who is working for ChildFund in Chad, was in the Koungoungou refugee camp last week when a wave of new refugees arrived on the back of trucks carrying what few possessions they had left. She describes the influx as putting extra stress on an already strained environment.

The refugee group is just a snapshot of the hundreds, if not thousands, of new refugees who continue to pour over the border into Chad daily and need immediate aid and support.

ChildFund New Zealand has today launched an emergency appeal for the people of Darfur, asking New Zealanders to donate money to help support the work being done by Maureen and the many other ChildFund workers who are providing life saving assistance in very difficult circumstances. The temperature is now dropping to below 5°C and is accompanied by fierce winds that means many of the refugees are in urgent need of warm clothes and blankets along with food, shelter and medical care.

Maureen’s most recent communication describes the ‘processing’ of the refugees:

“When they arrive they are ‘processed’ by registering them and issuing them with a refugee card which determines how much food and other items they are entitled to. Children are then immunised, medical treatment provided where needed and then food and other materials are given. It is heart wrenching to see these people arriving with almost nothing, having to leave their entire livelihoods behind them. The camps are now stretched to their limits and resources are very scarce. There were already 12,000 people in Camp Koungounou, before the trucks began arriving.”

Maureen described the sight of an elderly woman who had lost both her feet and hands to leprosy and was looking after two small children whose parents had been killed.

“These sights are the hardest. The elderly and young children who are turning up have lost everything, been terrified, thrown out of their homes and forced to escape across the border to survive.”

On a practical front, Maureen says hygiene is a big issue in the camps. ChildFund is providing soap and containers for the refugee children to wash themselves before entering the camps but she says the cold and their weak state makes this difficult.

“Many of the younger children have sores because they are not washing properly due to the lack of water; we are working hard to educate them about the need for basic hygiene and providing facilities for this.”

Another key focus for ChildFund is providing blankets. Many refugees have arrived with hardly any clothes at all except those on their back. Most of their clothing is completely inadequate for the conditions.

“Today I saw a little girl who turned up with hardly any clothes. The instructors found some old material to tie around her shoulders to keep her warm. There is just nothing left to offer these children.”

Children remain the most vulnerable. Many have either lost one or both parents, or have been separated from their parents or care givers as they have fled Darfur. They are now forced to fend for themselves.

“Today was a hard day. I met a child who was severely vulnerable. He couldn’t walk or talk, and wasn’t aware of his surroundings. My heart broke. All I could do was hug this little boy as there was such little hope for him.”

As the situation deteriorates ChildFund comes across cases of children being chained or locked up as the families can’t care for them, or need to leave the camp to look for food and firewood. Without international assistance families are forced further and further away from the safety of the camps to look for scarce food, water and firewood.

ChildFund National Director Paul Brown is calling on Kiwis to help ChildFund make a difference to the lives of the refugees already in camps and the many more who continue to arrive every day as the situation deteriorates. “Darfur refugees, especially the children, are incredibly vulnerable and we need the help of caring Kiwis urgently to provide life saving assistance. Every dollar donated will literally mean the difference between life and death.”

ChildFund has today launched an emergency appeal and is calling on all New Zealanders to help fund the immediate assistance that is needed so urgently by the Darfur refugees by calling 0800 223 111 to make a donation or visiting www.childfund.org.nz to donate online.

About ChildFund New Zealand

There are 12 international refugee camps in Chad, accommodating around a quarter of a million Sudanese refugees. ChildFund has programmes in the four largest camps where aid workers like Maureen work to protect and support children caught up in this crisis.

ChildFund New Zealand is an international child development organisation which works in 54 countries, assisting 11.4 million children and family members regardless of race, creed or gender.

ChildFund New Zealand, a member of ChildFund International, works for the well-being of children by supporting locally-led initiatives that strengthen families and communities, helping them overcome poverty and protect the rights of their children.

ChildFund's comprehensive programs incorporate health, education, nutrition and livelihood interventions that sustainably protect, nurture and develop children. ChildFund works in any environment where poverty, conflict and disaster threaten the well-being of children.

ENDS

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