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The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing
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Operation Blessing International
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Bill Horan: The Dangers in Darfur

Bio by The 700 Club OBI and Humedica at Work
Humedica is a German faith based, non-government organization (NGO) that has partnered with OBI in six countries.   Nyala is the capital of South Darfur and in this region OBI and Humedica have partnered together on medical clinics and schools in three IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps –  Al Salaam, Shereif and Otash.

Al Salaam Camp
Al Salaam Camp was established in May 2005 by the Sudanese government. The number of refugees has fluctuated between 2,000 and 8,500, due to rebel attacks on government troops, government and Janjaweed attacks on villages where the rebels might be hiding, tribal discord, conflict with nomadic Sudanese, and general lack of security and fear.  Since January, Al Salaam has welcomed 150-300 new arrivals a day and the population has swelled to 6,000.

In May 2006, the UN asked Humedica to assume the official role of “camp coordinator.”  Almost all NGOs shy away from that job because of the huge responsibility, endless workload and the likelihood of criticism should the slightest thing go wrong.  Bill saw the fruit of Humedica’s efforts, and is astonished at the complexity of the behind-the scenes operations that support this smooth-running camp. There are other NGOs that play a part in the camp’s success, as well as branches of the UN, but Humedica is the prime mover that carries the heaviest load and makes it all happen. By supplying cash, Operation Blessing helps Humedica carry the load.

In the new arrival area Bill saw about 100 people – mostly women and children – unload a truck that had just arrived. Bill asked, “Where are the men?” The answer was always the same…the men have been killed. The arriving families had some meager possessions with them like garden tools, hammocks and burlap bags of food.  After registration, the new arrivals are greeted by a cadre of sheiks. The sheiks, each from a different tribe, are the leaders of the camp population. The registration papers are turned over to Humedica whose personnel then hand out basic supplies such as plastic tarps, blankets, cooking utensils and metal dishes. The newcomers are then taken to an area that coincides with tribal background and instructed on the rules of the camp. From that point, the construction of shelters is up to the refugees.

It’s easy to identify the areas populated by newcomers because of the white tarps and crude dwellings. Some find sticks and pitch a tent-like structure while others make more elaborate huts, using every conceivable scrap of material they can scrounge up. Corrals surrounded by thorn fences (built to contain donkeys and goats), elaborately-woven wind breaks, huge bundles of sorghum, vegetable gardens, sun flowers and other valiant attempts to normalize life were evident.

Bill visited the school that OBI funded and Humedica built. The area is fenced in with steel posts every six feet and solid sections of woven bamboo. There are 16 “classrooms,” each a free standing building with walls made of bamboo, concrete floors and woven straw roofs. One classroom was packed tight with 150 young girls and the teacher was in the middle of an Arabic language class. At “breakfast time” Bill watched as the kids lined up excitedly; girls on one side, boys on the other, each presenting various containers. Some had nice cups and bowls, others had makeshift containers such as plastic coke bottles cut in half and turned upside down. The serving was a nutritious, hot porridge and half a loaf of fresh-baked flat bread.

Bill also visited the medical clinic where Humedica treats up to 200 patients a day. OBI funded the clinic and Humedica staffs it.  While they wait their turn, a Humedica Sudanese employee lectures on health issues such as hygiene and malaria prevention. Skin disease and diarrhea are the most common problems, but serious diseases like tuberculosis are also seen. The clinic offers free vaccinations, and by inoculating against measles, polio and other diseases, many lives are saved and much suffering is prevented.  The women’s care and baby delivery building was amazing. Three to five babies are born every day. Humedica employs four midwives so that one is on duty 24 hours a day. The mothers are kept at the clinic for two hours following childbirth, and if there are no complications, sent back to their home in the camp.      

Bill saw many other wonders in the camps, such as the centralized water system, intricate latrine system and other public services – things that Bill had never thought about when he envisioned a refugee camp.  He is very impressed with Humedica’s efficiency and extreme level of organization and excellence.

Journey to Al Shereif  - OBI/Humedica School and Clinic
 There are about 14,000 refugees living at Al Shereif. OBI’s participation there is in funding the school which accommodates 1,200 students plus 250 kindergartners. Bill and his group were greeted by a Sudanese named Ali who works for Humedica running construction of the schools and clinics, as well as acting as a liaison between camp sheiks and Humedica leadership. Wearing a bright, white jalabia (long, white robe) and white turban, Ali spoke perfect English and Bill learned later that he has a Masters degree in English. Ali took them into the school yard, where six tall men dressed like him were waiting. The men were representatives of the Al Shereif Parent-Teacher Association. Much like PTA members in the U.S., they were very interested in the quality of education that their children were receiving. They explained how the OBI school was rated number one out of the nine camp schools in the Nyala area, and that in order to maintain that degree of excellence, we should consider expanding facilities and adding to the existing 40 teachers.

Bill was struck by the passion in these men’s voices as they explained how important it was for their children to get a good education and how much they appreciated the school. One man said, “We will not live in this camp forever. When we return to our villages we will have only one good thing to take home from this camp – the education of our children.” 

Darfur’s Season of Suffering
The people of Sudan have long survived in spite of seasonal challenges, but historically, they have always fought the war on home ground, with only home, village and family support. Now, on top of the hardships imposed by weather and disease, rural Sudanese farmers and herders are struggling for survival amidst a war that started in 2003.  Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and sought safety in IDP camps. The conditions in each camp vary, but under the best of circumstances, life in the camps is a season of suffering. Without humanitarian organizations like Humedica and Operation Blessing, the legions of refugees would totally be at the mercy of the elements and would suffer untold deaths and unspeakable misery.

OBI and Humedica currently operate three clinics that are now the main source of medical relief for more than 100,000 refugees. Midwife service is provided 24/7 to deliver babies and care for pregnant mothers; vaccinations are given to prevent measles, TB, polio and other diseases; oral salts are administered to prevent death by dehydration from diarrhea; hygiene is taught to prevent diarrhea and offset cholera season; vector control implemented to dry up mosquito breeding; and sleeping nets are distributed to defend life during malaria season. These and a myriad of other preventative, curative and educational measures are given freely at the clinics. The Bible says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." This is the season of suffering for the people of Darfur. The time to help them is now.

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