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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Darfur aid worker's diary XV
Sacha Westerbeek is one of the people trying to help some of the one million Sudanese people who have fled their homes in what the UN is calling "the world's worst humanitarian crisis".

She is working for the United Nations children's agency, Unicef, in Nyala, southern Darfur and is writing a diary for BBC News Online about her experiences.

Sunday 2 August

Today is another day with the Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors and the rest of the lot - nine in total. I felt sorry for them that we could not go to Kalma camp due to the prevailing insecurity situation, but today we make it up to them by going to Kass.

I see the two hour journey through the eyes of the newcomers: destroyed villages, herds of camels, people riding camels and donkeys, deserted villages with few inhabitants, check points, the beauty of the country and the bridge with the drawings.

Images of war on the bridge
Images of war on the bridge
I've crossed this particular bridge many times and this is the first time that I notice that there are drawings on both sides. I inform the cameraman that it might be interesting to film and we get out of the vehicle for further inspection.

I don't know who drew them, but they look like children's drawings I've seen in schools and children's centres.

Guns, planes, bombs and people: The Darfur crisis in art form - the sad reality of life drawn on a bridge in the middle of nowhere. I wonder who the kids are, where they come from, when they made this, where they are now, are they still alive?

Saturday 1 August

In a bus we drive anxiously to the plane that is going to take us to Nyala.

The bus stops in front of an aircraft and I can see how the technicians are working on the engine.

Dereg settlement near Nyala in Darfur, Sudan
Entire families share small shelters
"Must be the wrong plane," I hope. But no, this is ours.

The pilot is friendly and promises to call my mobile when everything is fixed.

With me is a group of people including Belgium's Minister of Development Armand De Decker, former journalist Martin Bell, astronaut Frank De Winne and actress Silvia Abascal, who want to see Unicef operations in Darfur.

When we eventually arrive in Nyala we stop by to see the governor of South Darfur, who says the security situation has improved - the message is that everything seems to be under control.


I had planned to take the group to Kalma IDP (internally displaced person) camp, 14km from Nyala but unfortunately this is not possible due to a situation in the camp.

UN and NGO staff have to leave as soon as possible as their safety cannot be guaranteed as there is an angry and hungry mob in the camp. Two Unicef staff are trapped there, and we monitor how they manage to get out safely.

Instead we go to the hospital in Nyala to visit the therapeutic feeding centre.

The visitors take photos of the children and they listened to the stories of the women, many of whom were forced to leave their homes, lost all their belongings and witnessed how their husband or relatives got killed.

The visitors find it difficult to internalise that they have just heard, but I need to hurry them on their tour.

The next stop is Dereg camp, an informal settlement just outside Nyala town, where humanitarian organisations are yet to provide for basic needs.

I listen to people who had been requested to return to their villages of origin.

But overnight they walked all the way back to Nyala as they felt insecure.

I see malnourished children and children with rashes and skin diseases I've never seen before.

They stay in makeshift shelters no bigger then a small tent.

All over Darfur, entire families are sharing shelters made out of grass and sticks, and with a bit of luck pieces of plastic.

We go back before the afternoon rain starts.

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