Expelled Aid Worker: Situation In Darfur Is Dire Last week, 13 international aid groups were expelled from Sudan's Darfur region. Gemma Davies of Doctors Without Borders was one of those forced to leave. She talks about what the humanitarian situation was like when they left.
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Expelled Aid Worker: Situation In Darfur Is Dire

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Expelled Aid Worker: Situation In Darfur Is Dire

Expelled Aid Worker: Situation In Darfur Is Dire

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Today, the U.S. Embassy in Sudan authorized its non-essential personnel to leave the country. This after the International Criminal Court, or ICC, issued an arrest warrant last week for Sudan's President Omar Hasan al-Bashir, charging him with war crimes against the people of Darfur.

Al-Bashir rejected the warrant and he fired back, expelling 13 international aid groups from Darfur. Those groups were helping the millions of people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and in some cases, their loved ones since the fighting began.

Gemma Davies is one of the aid workers forced to leave Darfur. She's a project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders and she joins us now from Nairobi. Welcome to the program.

Ms. GEMMA DAVIES (Project Coordinator, Doctors Without Borders): Thanks very much.

NORRIS: Ms. Davies, what was the situation in Darfur when you left?

Ms. DAVIES: I mean, obviously, different for different areas. Out in the areas that I was working, we had a lot of concerns about the security of the area. Security was getting worse in the weeks leading up to our departure. And in one of the camps that we were working, one my colleague was working in a Kalma Camp, which is one of the larger camps for internally displaced people.

Weeks before we were expelled the government declared an outbreak of meningitis. You know, we were preparing ourselves to vaccinate the population of that camp and to do case management for every meningitis case.

NORRIS: What happens in a situation like that where you have an outbreak and you're not able to vaccinate people?

Ms. DAVIES: Well, 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 of the people, we suspect in meningitis. Now, also, the other concern is the fact that the potential for an outbreak to spread quickly in refugee camps, where people are living in very close proximity to each other, is high.

NORRIS: When you got this order of expulsion, I'm trying to understand what that would mean for you and for your organization, how, what does it take to dismantle an operation and quickly get out of the country?

Ms. DAVIES: I mean, there was no time. Each of the projects was asked to come out immediately. There's very little you can do to dismantle it. So we left with the things we would need to be able restart the project, such as our computers, that kind of thing. Everything else was left behind. There wasn't time to be able to dismantle everything. It was literally just the case of us moving.

We have left most of our office behind, most of which have been seized by now. But more than that, our concern is for those 450,000 people that we've left behind without any health care providers and that's just from our organization. So the impact for the organizations who had large-scale operations is massive.

NORRIS: If I may ask, is there a particular patient or family that you were working with that still stays with you, at least in your mind, even though you're now in Nairobi?

Ms. DAVIES: Yeah. We had a woman come to our clinic with heart disease, obviously that's not something that we can stop, but certainly we can stabilize her. Now, she was pregnant. She gave birth to her child in the clinic. And 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 okay.

NORRIS: What are the prospects for Doctors Without Borders returning to Darfur?

Ms. DAVIES: I have no idea. It's really difficult to say. The expulsion came without any explanation. So, I mean, it's very hard for us to judge what the prospects of going back here are because we don't know the reason that we're out in the first place.

NORRIS: Gemma Davies, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Ms. DAVIES: No problem.

NORRIS: Gemma Davies is an aid worker who was forced to leave Darfur. She's the project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. She spoke to us from Nairobi.

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