Mershing, Darfur, September 26, 2005
A clinic supported by Action by Churches Together provided a vital lifeline to hundreds of people living in trouble-stricken South Darfur, Sudan.
PWRDF is a member of Action by Churches Together (ACT) and has supported the Sudan appeal. In this situation ACT partners with the Roman Catholic relief agency, Caritas.
In mid to late September the clinic in Mershing – a village 87 kilometres due north of the South Darfur regional capital Nyala – was one of the few still open in the area, despite heightened insecurity.
The clinic is run by the Sudanese Development Organisation (SUDO) – a partner agency to ACT. And when the violence escalated, its staff continued to treat the sick.
At least one other clinic in the area had closed because of the security problems, leaving sparse health resources for those families living both in Mershing village and for the 5,000 people who live in eight surrounding camps.
This led to an influx of extra patients to the SUDO clinic. Workers at the clinic said they needed treatment for a range of conditions – particularly malaria and dysentery and vaccination for children – causing a rapid run on stocks of medicines.
Abdul Rahman Mohammed Abdul Karim is the medical assistant who continued working at the clinic, which is in Um Gusein camp. This houses more than 1,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who fled to Mershing from their villages – many have lived in the camp for well over a year.
Abdul Karim said: “After we had seen more than 100 patients, we called ACT-Caritas and the SUDO regional manager and said that we needed extra drugs.”
The worsening security situation also led ACT-Caritas to lobby for the African Union peacekeeping force to be deployed into Mershing and to launch daily patrols and to stay in the area overnight to enhance security.
Local people said that African Union forces began to arrive on Wednesday and stayed overnight. Then at the first opportunity, on Thursday, ACT sent Dr Mohammed Mansour to the clinic, together with new supplies of drugs.
He travelled with an AU military escort on the road from Nyala to Mershing and back – and so was able to deliver the desperately-needed drugs to the clinic just in time.
“All of the drugs for the whole clinic were finished,” he said.
Security problems escalated in Mershing at the beginning of September. The driver of an NGO vehicle was shot. Men were attacked as they ventured beyond the perimeter to farm land; women abused when they went to collect firewood.
Local people said the AU presence had brought some stability to the area, but men in Um Gusein and women in the nearby Tonkittir camp both said they still felt insecure.
One woman, 40 years old, a mother of four, said that she was too afraid to leave the perimeter of Tonkittir camp, where she lives. “We stay here, inside the camp and we can’t go out.” Another one, who has nine children and is also 40, said: “If feel that I donÃƒ¯Ã‚¿Ã‚½t have any way to make money. I can’t get wood. We are here inside the camps but we don’t have work and because of this, we can’t buy food. We feel that we are trapped.”