Aid Workers Fear Summer of Famine; Sudanese Refugee Crisis Looming

Article excerpt

Byline: Carter Dougherty, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

FACHANA, Chad - The crisis that has unfolded over the past year in western Sudan and eastern Chad has already left 1.2 million people homeless, and it will get worse in the coming months as famine and disease begin to kill off the weakened population, according to aid workers and government officials.

On the ground in neighboring Chad, where 130,000 Sudanese have fled to escape attacks by horse-mounted militiamen and regular army troops, humanitarian groups are bracing for a surge in disease as midyear rains spread maladies such as cholera and measles.

Bertrand Bazel manages a refugee camp in Fachana, Chad, for the aid organization Secadev, an affiliate of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services. The camp, which was designed for 10,000 people, now houses more than 13,000, and Secadev is racing to obtain shelter for everyone before the rains.

"Before the rainy season, we'd like to have everyone here and housed," Mr. Bazel said. "But that won't happen."

The catastrophe erupted as the Sudanese government, attempting to stamp out an insurgency in its western region of Darfur, waged a ruthless offensive beginning in mid-2003 that drove 130,000 people over the border into Chad. It left another million internally displaced within Sudan itself.

Most attacks on the villages occurred at the hands of the Janjaweed, an Arab militia that apparently worked in close coordination with Khartoum's army, something the regime of President Omar Bashir has denied.

Roger Winter, an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told a congressional committee on May 6 that by June, the death rate among refugees in Darfur will reach three per 10,000 people each day, triple the rate that USAID considers an emergency. …