World Vision announced recently that the Christian relief organization plans to airlift emergency supplies directly into war-ravaged Darfur, where about one million people are estimated to be displaced after a militia terror campaign razed villages, poisoned water sources and left thousands dead or starving. The announcement came after the Sudanese government pledged to ease access for humanitarian agencies.
According to World Vision, more than 4 million people were displaced from their homes by the past Sudanese civil war; a million more are being displaced by the new conflict in the western region of Darfur that rages on despite the recently-signed peace accord.
Following visits by the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sudan said it would streamline the issuing of visas for all aid workers and suspend restrictions on the importation of humanitarian supplies, including vehicles, aircraft, and communication equipment.
"We are now in a position to mount an airlift within a week or so, and quickly assemble ex-pat and local staff to implement our programs in Darfur," said World Vision Africa relief director Philippe Guiton who felt the move was a positive step.
Last month, World Vision received permission from the Sudanese government to significantly expand its operations there following the signing of the peace accord. Though World Vision began working in Sudan more than 30 years ago, the 21-year-long civil war has interrupted the organization's efforts throughout the years. Guiton expressed hope that World Vision would now be able to meet the enormous needs of the Sudanese people.
World Vision is currently preparing teams to deliver food, medical aid, shelter, and other essential supplies to these displaced people. In addition, the organization will provide counseling and protection for traumatized children.
World Vision also plans to institute a major relief operation for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, who fled across the border during the past 18 months to escape the conflict in Darfur. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 200,000 Sudanese, mostly women and children, have sought refuge in Chad where they face extreme heat and shortages of water, food, shelter, and other necessities.
Talks are underway with the UNHCR to establish a jointly operated refugee camp in Chad and to provide food, water, and health care for refugees in a number of the other camps. Emergency relief supplies, flown into Chad on June 13, were delivered to the camps.