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Maree's story: ensuring fewer children die of diarrhoea

A child in Darfur being vaccinated against polio© Info

Red Cross nurse Maree Dunn from Australia recently returned from Gereida in southern Darfur where the British Red Cross runs a health and water project with the Australian Red Cross and the Sudanese Red Crescent.

Maree was one of the first delegates to arrive in Gereida in September 2004. With her colleagues, she set up a health clinic in the camp just outside the town where 30,000 internally displaced people live.

“My first letters home were all about children dying from diarrhoea,” she recalls. A lot has changed since. Today, the clinic sees 150 patients each day and runs a health education programme. Maree says: “The programme has certainly made a difference to the number of children dying from diarrhoea. Parents now know when to bring their children to the clinic and what kind of treatment is needed.”

Building capacity

As part of its commitment to the community, the Red Cross has recruited staff locally. Maree says: “Our aim is to increase local capacity so, if we have to pull out tomorrow, there will be people in the town who can carry out our work.”

This is especially important in a volatile environment such as Darfur. Although Gereida has been spared the violence so far, other places have not been as fortunate. A couple of weeks before Maree left the town, people were still arriving there.

Maree says: “Their villages had been completely burned to the ground and people had fled with what they could grab. They arrived in Gereida with virtually nothing. Some had three layers of clothes on them because that was all they were able to bring.”

Despite the volatile security situation, the Red Cross has no intention of pulling out. “We are the only organisation that has stayed in Gereida the whole time. People respect us for that and look after us,” Maree says and adds: “We intend to stay as long as there is a need.”

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