AN URGENT APPEAL ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF ZAMZAM IDP CAMP
February 6, 2024
AN URGENT APPEAL ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF ZAMZAM IDP CAMP
What has long been known, and of the deepest concern to our project in Zamzam IDP camp, is that food and water supplies are not nearly adequate for this vast population—and that famine and widespread disease from the drinking of contaminated water are bearing down hard on these displaced people.
Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which runs a clinic in Zamzam—the only international presence in the camp—has today (February 5, 2024) issued a report that is shocking in its quantification of mortality and malnutrition, especially for children—and what this grim depiction portends for the coming months.
Our project in Zamzam of course cannot match the scale of an international relief organization, but we have taken on the task of providing at least monthly distributions of food to the most destitute and needy; we are the only ones at present who are doing so.
Moreover, we have also now completed the rehabilitation of seven wells that are critical to the clean water supply for thousands of people. All this in addition to attending to the critical needs of girls and women traumatized by the genocidal sexual violence that has prevailed in Darfur for twenty years.
Our hope is to increase in the coming weeks the supply of food on hand for the people of Zamzam, trying to save as many lives as possible before international aid comes in substantial quantities—if it ever does. For now the situation could not be more desperate.
Every dollar we receive is devoted to the project in Zamzam. There is absolutely no overhead for the project: all goes for the salaries of Team Zamzam counselors, food, medicine, and fistula surgeries for women ravaged by brutal rape/gang-rape.
This is a moment of truth for the international community, which seems unable in the context of war in the Middle East, conflict in Ukraine, and domestic American politics to find the will to provide the humanitarian assistance so desperately needed.
Ways to help our Project Zamzam can be found following the excerpts from this MSF report:
"The malnutrition crisis in Zamzam camp, North Darfur, requires an urgent humanitarian response as an estimated one child is dying every two hours"
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls for the mass mobilisation of the international community to save lives
A rapid nutrition and mortality assessment carried out by MSF reveals that a catastrophic situation has unfolded in Zamzam camp, North Darfur, since the conflict in Sudan began in April 2023. All emergency thresholds for malnutrition have been reached and MSF is calling for an immediate, coordinated and rapid scale-up of the humanitarian response in order to save lives.
The action of UN agencies and international NGOs – who have maintained only a limited presence in North Darfur since they evacuated in April – is vital for achieving this. Food and cash distributions are urgently required. Healthcare and water and sanitation provision are also vital.
Almost a quarter of children screened during the assessment were found to be acutely malnourished, with seven per cent having severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Among children aged six months to two years old, the figures were even more stark with nearly 40 per cent of this age group malnourished – 15 per cent with SAM.
The emergency threshold for moderate and severe acute malnutrition combined (the Global Acute Malnutrition rate - GAM), which indicates that urgent action must be taken, is 15 per cent – making it clear that a serious emergency situation is present in Zamzam camp.
The total number of deaths in the camp per day was also cause for extreme alarm, with a crude mortality rate of 2.5 per 10,000 people per day – more than double the emergency threshold. Forty per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women were also found to be malnourished – another indicator of the intense severity of the situation.
To prevent further imminent loss of life and to reduce the scale of suffering, MSF will rapidly increase our response in the camp to provide treatment for children in the most critical condition. However, the scale of the disaster requires a far greater response than we can provide alone. “What we are seeing in Zamzam camp is an absolutely catastrophic situation,” says Claire Nicolet, head of MSF’s emergency response in Sudan. “We estimate that at least one child is dying every two hours in the camp.
“Our current estimate is that there are around 13 child deaths each day. Those with severe malnutrition who have not yet died are at high risk of dying within three to six weeks if they do not get treatment. Their condition is treatable if they can get to a health facility. But many cannot,” says Nicolet.
People are drinking either from the swamps or from the river, which can cause severe diarrhoea. For children who are already malnourished, this can be fatal. Likewise, it can lead to malnutrition in healthy children and cause a rapid deterioration in their health. “There are many factors that have contributed to the high levels of malnutrition we are seeing. January is a time when malnutrition should be at its lowest, because December is when the harvest usually takes place [should be "concludes"—ER], meaning that stocks of food should be at their highest,” says Nicolet.
“But over the past year people have been unable to tend to their crops due to the insecurity, and on top of this, what little agricultural production that has been possible has been below average because of low rainfall. “With the usual malnutrition peak yet to come – between April and September – we are expecting the already enormous number of cases we are seeing now to drastically increase over the coming months,” she says. “We know from the mortality assessment that there are hundreds of children who do not even reach our clinic in the camp."
“It is possible to prevent the situation from deteriorating further through a massive mobilisation of the international community. We cannot sit by and let people continue to suffer in silence. The need for this scale-up is urgent – without it, the preventable deaths of even more children will occur.”
How to Help Our Project in Zamzam
Assistance is urgently needed and will be greatly appreciated by Team Zamzam, and all those whose suffering they seek to alleviate. The distribution of food and medicine presently comes as many within the camp daily move closer to starvation. Here I should also stress the tremendous efficiencies of purchases by a staff with local knowledge, as well as the value of their deep understanding of where need is greatest within this vast camp, swollen with recent displacements caused by insecurity.
We also hope that all will keep in mind our project as a whole operates with truly extraordinary efficiency, in ways matched by no humanitarian organization operating in Darfur that I am aware of, a region I have been researching for two decades. There is absolutely no overhead for this project.
Those wishing to assist in funding the work of Team Zamzam may also send a check directly to Eric (Eric Reeves, 31 Franklin St., Northampton, MA 01060)