By Katy Snyder
JVA Communications/Resource Associate
Amidst his indictment last week by the International Criminal Court, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ordered 13 aid organizations (12 of which are nonprofit organizations) out of Darfur, and some out of the country all together. The expulsion of these groups is expected to cut aid to the war-torn Darfur region by at least 50 percent. It is estimated that without the assistance of these nonprofits, 1.1 million people will be without food, 1.1 million without health care and 1 million without clean water, according to the New York Times. Organizations expelled include CARE, Oxfam Great Britain, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The void left by the forced pullout of these nonprofits highlights the vital work that nonprofits do, especially internationally. The IRC currently provides primary health care, water and sanitation, and child and youth programs, including education to more than 650,000 people in Darfur. For the past six years, CARE has undertaken emergency lifesaving assistance in Darfur and neighboring Chad. Sudan is one of CARE’s largest operations in East and Central Africa, with more than 650 staff in the country, the majority of whom are Sudanese nationals. Darfur is also Oxfam’s largest single emergency program in the world, providing humanitarian aid for more than 400,000 people affected by the ongoing conflict. Oxfam provides clean water, health care and employment training in the refugee camps of Darfur. Save the Children, which had both its U.S. and British contingencies expelled, provides essential support to children and their families, including food, clean water, nutritional interventions, basic and reproductive health care, protection, and education programs for children and women in camps and communities throughout Sudan.
The forced pullout of these aid agencies will undoubtedly lead directly to the deaths of thousands of Sudanese. Adding to the misery that is sure to follow these expulsions is the fact that these aid organizations not only provided resources, but they also served as eyewitnesses, and sometimes deterrents, to the rapes and attacks that have become commonplace during this conflict. In their absence, it will only be easier for al-Bashir and his allies to inflict violence and suffering without the eyes of the world looking on.
The ongoing conflict in Darfur has left the tribes of western Sudan dependent on the aid that they receive from international nonprofits—the government of Sudan will not replace the vital services that will be lost as these nonprofits are forced to leave Sudan. Darfurians and the people of the other tribes of western Sudan will die as a direct result of nonprofit services being taken from them.
What can you do to help? For starters, go to http://ga3.org/campaign/aid_sudan to sign a petition started by the IRC to demand that the UN and international community do everything in their power to ensure that refugees and displaced persons in Darfur continue to receive the aid they need to stay alive. Colorado nonprofits can take a strong stand against the expulsion of nonprofit groups in Sudan and demonstrate just how vital the services that they provide are.
For me, this is a personal issue—I have volunteered for years with Project Education Sudan, a Denver-based nonprofit that builds schools in southern Sudan, and last year I traveled to Sudan to help build schools and assist with implementing microenterprise ventures with women. I also have a strong connection to Denver’s Sudanese community. I have seen precisely what nonprofits can do for a country that has been plagued by years of colonization, war and famine, and I know what will happen if these types of services are lost.