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For Immediate Release

UN Security Council Must Create Emergency Humanitarian Plan for Darfur; Libya Should Take Lead

Cambridge, Mass - 03/31/2009

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) applauds the Security Council's recent decision to condemn Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's expulsion of thirteen aid international humanitarian aid groups and the dissolution of three national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and remains deeply concerned about the impending humanitarian crisis that will inevitably result. PHR calls on the United Nations Security Council to task a high-level working group with the urgent development of a plan to provide humanitarian assistance.

If not urgently addressed, the expulsion of these aid groups and the shut-down of three Sudanese organizations, which between them supplied half of the humanitarian assistance to Darfur, could mean death by hunger, thirst or epidemic diseases for up to 1.5 million people.

“Secretary Clinton said that Bashir will be held responsible for deaths resulting from the expulsion of the aid agencies,” said Frank Donaghue, PHR's Chief Executive Officer. “Instead of doing nothing and then laying blame, we should plan now to prevent this crisis.”

PHR urges the Security Council to assist with the transfer of personnel and institutional knowledge from expelled NGOs to remaining ones, and calls on other humanitarian aid organizations to offer staff and services to fill the gaps. In addition, the UN should assist with the coordination of the remaining NGOs.

A joint assessment conducted by the Government of Sudan and the United Nations forecast an impending disaster: the expelled NGOs served 1.1 million people who will not have access to food. A one-off food distribution by the World Food Programme will provide rations through April, but food stores will be depleted by May. Nearly 850,000 people are now without access to health care, including vaccinations, and outbreaks such as meningitis are now raging in Kalma and other camps. Now, nearly 700,000 will not receive shelter materials prior to the onset of the rainy season. Most water systems are currently functioning, but major water shortages could occur within two to four weeks if fuel and spare parts are not provided.

Reports from the field not approved by the Sudanese government paint an even more dire picture: in the camps near Zalingei (west Darfur), food rations have been reduced by 40%, water is now available only six hours a day instead of 10, and there is no more chlorine to treat the water. There is a shortage of blankets and canvas shelters in the camps. The clinics are out of medical supplies and have reduced operations from five days a week to three.

It is only a matter of time before people migrate westward, towards eastern Chad, in search of food, water and medical care. “That journey would be a death sentence for many,” said Frank Donaghue, PHR's Chief Executive Officer. Even if people survive potential attacks by the Sudanese military forces or Janjaweed, they will succumb to temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and a lack of food and potable water. And, from the time PHR spent in the refugee camps in Chad last fall, we know that the camps cannot absorb to absorb vast numbers of new arrivals.

PHR calls on Libya, as the current President of the United Nations Security Council, member of the Arab League and of the African Union, and a key player in addressing the Darfur crisis, to take the lead on this critical issue. The international community must recognize the urgency of the problem and mobilize now to craft viable solutions and devote the necessary resources to prevent a large-scale humanitarian disaster.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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