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Darfur expelled relief groups forewarn epidemic, spill-over into Chad

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March 11, 2009 (N’DJAMENA) — Expelled relief organizations CARE and Doctors Without Borders voiced deep concern for the humanitarian situation in Darfur and warned of possible outbreak of epidemic and a spill-over of refugees into Chad.

In Sudan, CARE provided food, water, sanitation, livelihood, and health assistance for some 1.5 million people, including approximately 600,000 people in the Darfur region. The organization also operates in eastern Chad.

The aid agency warned that within a period of less than two weeks, 1.5 million people will be without access to health services and “with the rainy season approaching and a lack of health services, the risk of a serious disease epidemic is growing.”

In sum, “Conditions in Darfur will likely deteriorate without those organizations there to meet that need. In a worst-case scenario, it is possible many of those displaced persons could be forced to move across the border into Chad in search of assistance,” said the group

Following the expulsion order made one week ago, an outbreak of meningitis in a South Darfur refugee camp has not been contained. Four died from the disease and 28 others were infected by last Friday, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Associated Press reported two more deaths from meningitis cases on Tuesday in Kalma camp.

MSF, which was also expelled, had been set to launch a vaccination campaign and estimates that rapid vaccinations are need for 130,000 people in Nyala and its surroundings including Kalma, 15,000 people in Thur and 25,000 in the Jebel Marra.

“Meningitis is a very serious disease. If the patient receives appropriate and rapid treatment, the mortality rate is five to 10 percent. Without treatment, bacterial meningitis kills up to 50 percent of infected patients,” noted MSF’s Dr. Anne Loarec in an interview posted on the group’s website.

Sudan’s Ministry of Health officially declared the meningitis outbreak on March 2.

Regarding another one of largest camps in Darfur, Zamzam outside of El Fasher, Oxfam staff warned last week that the breakdown of the water system there could potentially lead to a cholera outbreak.

CARE also cited renewed rebel activity in Chad, describing the current situation as “calm but volatile.” There are 250,000 refugees in Chad from Darfur.

(ST)

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