Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Nathalie Civet: 'The people in Darfur are in a humanitarian limbo'

From a speech by the Médecins Sans Frontières doctor to the United Nations Security Council, in New York

How can I convey how a woman living in a camp feels when she goes out each day to fetch firewood knowing that she may be attacked, robbed, beaten, or even raped? How can I tell you what it is like for her to then rush back not to miss the general food distribution, if it is even happening, then cook the food while also not forgetting to bring her sick child to the feeding centre? And on the side, she will be trying to earn some money by making bricks, or collecting wood or water, all of this while taking care of her entire family as she is the head of the household.

The scorched-earth campaign of 2003-04 has now been replaced by less overt and large-scale, but equally devastating, forms of violence and intimidation of civilians, including the effects of sporadic fighting, direct attacks, and sexual violence.

The two million people in Darfur who are in what I would call a humanitarian limbo more than a humanitarian equilibrium are subject to violence, communicable disease in crowded camps, and food insecurity for the foreseeable future. As a doctor having worked in Darfur for more than a year and a half and talking to my patients, I have often thought about what the life choices of the victims of this war are.

They are dependent on hand-outs. But what can they do? They have already fled one, two or more attacks before reaching an area of concentration like Mornay or Serif Umra or countless others in Darfur. Their village has been burned down, their land is often occupied, if they were to return they would very likely have to live side by side with their attackers and they know that new attacks are always possible.

For the majority of the displaced people we have spoken with, returning home is not an option, despite the fact that a return to normality and their homes is what they all hope for.