The expulsion of foreign aid groups from Sudan's Darfur region amid a meningitis outbreak in some refugee camps could dramatically push up mortality rates, says an aid worker forced to leave the country.
"If there's no one there to vaccinate and if there's no one there to manage the meningitis cases, the mortality rate would be expected to be anywhere between 50 and 80 percent," Gemma Davies, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, tells NPR's Michele Norris.
Davies is among aid workers from 13 organizations expelled from Darfur last week after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with war crimes in Darfur. The groups were helping the millions of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods since the fighting began in the region.
Concern For Those Left Behind
Davies says the security in the area in which she was working was already deteriorating when the expulsion orders came.
"In the areas that I was working, we had a lot of concerns about the security of the area," she says. "The security was getting worse in the weeks leading up to our departure."
Davies says she is concerned for the 450,000 people left behind in the region without any health care providers. She recounts the story of a pregnant woman who came to her clinic with heart disease.
"She gave birth to her child in the clinic. She and her child stayed in the clinic for six months until she passed away. Now, that child has no mother, no known father.
"Her family have tried to take on the care of this child, and she was doing very well with our support. Obviously, now we're not there. I hope more than anything that she'll be OK."
Davies says she is unsure if she'll return to Darfur.
"It's very difficult to say," she says. "The expulsion came without an explanation, so ... it's very hard for us to judge what the prospects of going back are, because we don't know the reason we're out in the first place."