Otash camp lies just outside Nyala, the capital of southern
Darfur and epicentre of the world's single largest humanitarian
Otash is small by Darfurian standards. It provides food, primitive
shelter and basic sanitation to 40,000 people, who fled there
after their villages were looted and burned by the Arab armed
militia, the Janjaweed.
The Government in Khartoum disputes that it has any role in
arming the Janjaweed.
A HUMAN FACE TO A TRAGEDY: Kevin Rudd visited some
of the more than two million people living in camps
tragedy is that Otash is only one of 167 camps across
northern, western and southern Darfur. There are now
2.25 million people in camps and they are still streaming
in, despite assurances from the Government that, with
the signing of the Darfur peace agreement on 5th May,
it is now safe to return."
village people of Darfur have little doubt, and point to the
sophistication of weaponry, the Toyota LandCruisers and the
combat fatigues suddenly sported by these nomadic Arab tribesmen,
whose traditional form of transport is the camel.
I spoke to refugees who had come from different parts of Darfur
in the Sudan. Some had fled two years ago, others two months
ago, one family three weeks ago.
But all the stories had the same chilling theme: organised
attacks in the dead of night by hundreds of Janjaweed, killing,
raping and stealing from the villages.
One middle-aged man came striding across the camp with his
daughter and tiny grandson.
All three had been burnt after their house was torched. The
man's daughter removed her shawl to reveal appalling burns.
His other grandson died in the fire.
The tragedy is that Otash is only one of 167 camps across
northern, western and southern Darfur.
There are now 2.25 million people in camps and they are still
streaming in, despite assurances from the Government that,
with the signing of the Darfur peace agreement on 5th May,
it is now safe to return.
It is at times like this you thank God for the UN World Food
Program; for NGOs such as World Vision, physically responsible
for distributing supplies to a quarter of a million people;
and for the United States, which has physically supplied a
staggering 55 per cent of total food shipments to date.
Darfur is consuming 60 per cent of the world food program's
global budget and represents the third largest food emergency
in the WFP's history.
The logistics of keeping 2.25 million people alive, leaving
aside other programs in the rest of Sudan, are mind-boggling.
The tragedy is that Darfur has been sliding off the global
radar screen, if in fact it ever really made it on to the
Australian radar screen in the first place.
To keep all these people alive this year will require $2 billion.
As of June, only 39 per cent of this had been pledged, but
even that had not been delivered.
And there is a six-month gap between the delivery of funds
(not just the pledging) and the physical delivery of food
in camps. The result has been to force the WFP in March to
halve food-ration allocations to refugees from the recommended
minimum of 8,800 kilojoules a day to 4,600 a day.
They did this so as not to run out completely by October.
Since then, there has been improvement largely due to a surge
in US support.
But as of Sunday, when I visited the WFP warehouse in Nyala,
the pure soya-bean ration now stands at only 375g per person
a month, compared with the 1.5kg recommended minimum. The
incidence of malnutrition and mortality will inevitably increase.
The Government's contribution this year to Sudan has been
less than flash. Of the $960 million contributed so far from
donor governments, the Howard Government has put in only $3
This contrasts with the Netherlands at $68 million, Norway
at $28 million, Canada at $23 million, Denmark at $20 million,
Sweden at $17 million and Ireland at $7 million.
Government's contribution this year to Sudan has been
less than flash. Of the $960 million contributed so
far from donor governments, the Howard Government
has put in only $3 million.
"This contrasts with the Netherlands at $68 million,
Norway at $28 million, Canada at $23 million, Denmark
at $20 million, Sweden at $17 million and Ireland
at $7 million."
is not good enough for a country such as Australia, and from
an Australian Government that constantly boasts it has global,
not just regional, interests.
It's on this basis the Government justifies the $2 billion
it is spending on the Iraq War, which may just be our single
greatest foreign policy failure since Vietnam.
The Government did well on the tsunami response and the Opposition
congratulated Mr Howard at the time.
The Government has also done well in its modest contribution
of 25 defence and police personnel to the UN mission in Sudan
in support of the north-south peace accord, ending a civil
war that has cost two million lives in different region of
I was briefed by these young Australians in Khartoum and they
are doing a first-class job for their country and for Sudan.
But the Government is not doing well on humanitarian assistance
to Sudan, where the death toll is about as great. Australia
needs to reclaim its previous mantle of good international
citizenship and not get buried in the margins of crises beyond
its immediate sphere of strategic interest.
Of course, a humanitarian response through food aid is only
a short-term response.
The longer-term response goes to the core question of security
and restoring confidence on the part of local villagers to
return home and rebuild their livelihoods.
Time is running out for the Government of Sudan, which deployed
the Small African Union Force to monitor the as yet unsuccessful
Darfur Peace Agreement.
If it fails, the UN Security Council will have little option
but to proceed with deploying a UN peacekeeping force.
In the meantime, all people of goodwill have a responsibility
to act on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur -- described by
Tim Costello of World Vision as like watching Rwanda in slow
The Australian Government should act. And so should we, by
giving at www.worldvision.com.au.
Kevin Rudd is Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade
and International Security and has just returned from four
days in Sudan at the invitation of World Vision. This article
was first published in Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper.