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Forgotten Sudanese forced out to desert camp

3/23 12:50pm

By Opheera McDoom
AL-FATHA, Sudan (Reuters) - Amna Kody holds up her infected leg and pleads for some pills to stop the pain. But there are no doctors in al-Fatha where Sudanese authorities have forcibly relocated thousands of people taking refuge near Khartoum.

Almost 40 km (25 miles) past the suburb of Omdurman, in the middle of the desert, is an emerging city. Row after row of makeshift housing and tents accommodate more than 300,000 people who have fled Sudan's many conflicts to try to make a life in the national capital.

Kody, 60, is from the Nuba Mountains, a region caught up in Sudan's southern civil war where in the 1990s widespread atrocities took place against the Nuba tribespeople. Others in al-Fatha are from the southern Dinka tribe or from Darfur, where a 2-year-old rebellion is raging, forcing 2 million to flee their homes.

Al-Fatha has no running water, no food, no electricity, no schools or medical facilities. The top U.N. envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk, calls its residents the forgotten people.

"The people in these camps are probably worse off than the people of Darfur," he said.

Last year Darfur was described by the U.N. as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, although the camps for displaced there now have better facilities. Thousands still die every month from malnutrition or disease in Darfur's camps.

As Amna's wasting leg was filmed by visiting journalists, dozens of other people clamoured round to show their injuries and sickness.

"I cannot see at all, and have problems breathing," said one old man who could barely whisper.

A woman from the Shilluk kingdom, where tensions are still high despite a peace deal signed in January to end the southern war, showed how her skin had erupted in a rash and her limbs were swollen.

"We need help," she said angrily. "Why don't you bring us help?"

All the inhabitants tell the same story. "The government came on December 28, destroyed our houses and forced us to come here, where there is nothing," said Barbary Marjan, also from the Nuba Mountains.

Most of the people in al-Fatha come from Shikan, about 15 km closer to town and now a wasteland covered in rubble since the authorities bulldozed the houses last year because they were built without permission.

Residents said nine children died in the move because they could not cope with the severe night desert cold after their houses were destroyed without warning.

"It is these Arabs," said the Shilluk woman. "They don't want us here."


Khartoum's Arab-dominated government has a policy of demolishing what it calls slum housing, which stretches for miles around the capital, and moving the residents to planned areas further out to create satellite cities.

Aid officials say the government moves people forcibly to areas where there are no services, even food or water, and the people are too poor to get back to town where they work.

The U.N. estimates there are more than 2 million people living in the camps outside Khartoum and demolitions take place regularly.

"We are for the government planning Khartoum, but the way in which they move these people violates their human rights," said U.N. Advocacy Officer Kirsten Zaat.

Richard Angelo, who used to live in Shikan, says his wages don't cover the cost of his travel to Khartoum where he works as a teacher. He has to find additional work to make ends meet.

Some people say they make illegal alcohol from wheat to sustain themselves as they cannot work and have no food. They say the police beat them when they are caught.

"I have to fill my belly with something," said Mohamed Idriss, a Muslim from Darfur.

There is little aid money for the people who are camped round Khartoum.

Many want to go home but can't afford to and there is no livelihood to return to in the war-ravaged south, one of the poorest areas on earth.

Others have trained to become mechanics, engineers and teachers and would prefer to stay in the capital, though they are most needed to help rebuild the south.

The demolitions encourage unskilled workers like Thiyab Duma Paul to return to their areas in the south because of the promise of peace. But he found no services or infrastructure there and went back to Khartoum to try to rebuild his life.

"I want to go back home but there's no work there," he said. "What will I eat?".

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This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Sudanese

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