[December 17, 2014 update: as of December 2014, the UN estimates that approximately 400,000 were newly displaced from January through August of this year alone.
[April 6, 2014 update: as of early April 2014, the UN estimates that 480,000 people were newly displaced in 2013; beyond this, more than 200,000 people have been displaced in the first months of 2014. This brings the number of civilians newly displaced since the deployment of UNAMID in January 2008 to well over 2 million.]
[December 13, 2013 update: as of mid-November 2013 the UN estimates that 460,000 people have been newly displaced in Darfur. Using the figures below from the June 2013 calculation, this brings the number of civilians newly displaced since the deployment of UNAMID in January 2008 to approximately 2 million.]
A brief moment of shocking clarity accompanied confirmation by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that some 300,000 Darfuris have been newly displaced in the first four and a half months of 2013, an estimate first reported by Radio Dabanga on May 16, 2013, a week before other news sources:
In its latest report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirms that more than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Darfur since the beginning of this year. It attributes the displacement to inter-tribal fighting and conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebel movements.
[In this brief, numbers (including for mortality), names, dates, and locations are in bold throughout; italics are used for emphasis, which has always been added in quotations; spelling, transliteration, and the punctuation of quotations have often been regularized for clarity. I have also continued to use the division of Darfur into three states: West, South, and North Darfur states. This division is preserved in the highly detailed UN Field Atlases for Darfur: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3938
It is worth noting a peculiar use of this staggering figure for human displacement, by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and OHCA head Valerie Amos, in comparing it with the previous two years:
“The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have fled fighting in all of Darfur in the first five months of this year, which is more than the total number of people displaced in the last two years put together,” Amos said [in Khartoum].” (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], May 24, 2013]
The statistical claim here is highly dubious, as the data collated here suggest (see Section One below). And to the extent the claim is meant to suggest that 2011 and 2012 were not years of extraordinary levels of violence and displacement, this was simply disingenuous.
Moreover, displacement continues at a shocking rate: even subsequent to the mid-May figure reported by OCHA, tens of thousands of additional people have been displaced. Nor does the Secretary-General or any other voice of consequence in the international community offer meaningful and realistic proposals for halting this displacement, which over the past ten years has correlated highly with mortality. Indeed, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has done nothing to signal that it plans to change course in beginning to draw down the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has a UN Security Council mandate to protect civilians—including from displacement.
In their comparisons, the Secretary-General and OCHA chief appear to be continuing a pattern that has been evident since UNAMID first took up its civilian protection mandate (January 1, 2008), viz., trying to overstate previous “successes” in the face of ongoing catastrophe. But UNAMID’s inability to provide civilian and humanitarian protection has been conspicuous from the beginning, and was all too continuous with that of the preceding and grossly inadequate African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), UNAMID’s primary source of men and equipment early on. There is simply no sign that violent displacement will end or even diminish, or that aerial bombardments of civilians—rarely investigated by UNAMID—will cease to be a primary agency of human displacement, despite the wildly mendacious protestations of the Khartoum regime:
“‘It is absolutely not true that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) bombed civilian targets in the two regions, or in any other areas of Sudan,’ said on Thursday [May 30, 2013] foreign ministry spokesperson, Abu Bakar Al-Siddiq.” (Sudan Tribune, May 31, 2013)
[ I will soon be updating “They Bombed Everything that Moved”: Aerial Military Attacks on Civilians and Humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011 (analysis and bibliography of sources, 80+ pages with accompanying Excel spreadsheet, at www.sudanbombing.org).]); analysis and data spreadsheet previously updated June 5, 2012. More than 2,000 such aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians have been authoritatively reported since 1999. ]
Section One below offers the data and reports—from the UN, non-governmental organizations, and news reports—that support the following summary of findings about human displacement in Darfur over the past six and a half years:
2007: 300,000 civilians newly displaced
2008: 317,000 civilians newly displaced
2009: 250,000 civilians newly displaced
2010: 300,000 civilians newly displaced
2011: 200,000 civilians newly displaced
2012: 150,000 civilians newly displaced
2013: 320,000 civilians newly displaced as of June 1, 2013
The total for civilians newly displaced, 2007 – June 2013, is more than 1.8 million.
This figure is itself greater than the total number of IDPs, for all years, promulgated most often by OCHA (1.4 million); and of course the figure of 1.8 million does not include the figures for the years of greatest displacement, 2003 – 2006. At the end of 2008, according to OCHA’s last Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 34), there were 2.7 million people in displaced persons camps.
There is glaring, finally shocking statistical incoherence here. Whatever over-count is reflected in the OCHA figure for the end of 2008; whatever duplication has been generated by the fact that displacement figures do not disaggregate those displaced for the first time and those who have been displaced multiple times (and on each occasion been counted as “newly displaced”); whatever the ambiguity of status for many who live in the camps but attempt to work their lands; and whatever the highly limited success of the UN push for “returns” of IDPs to their lands and homes—none of this can possibly obscure the basic statistical fact represented here: there are clearly a great many more than 2 million Darfuris presently internally displaced; and—according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and UNHCR—there are also 330,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad (as well as a significant Darfuri refugee population in Central African Republic).
There is something deeply, disturbingly inaccurate about the figure for displacement that OCHA promulgates, and that news services, for the most part, simply repeat. OCHA sometimes acknowledges in its reports that another 300,000 people are in the IDP camps, but not being fed by the UN World Food Program. It is quite unclear why not being fed by WFP makes a person any less displaced. But even the figure of 1.7 million is not as great as the figure for those newly displaced since 2007—again, more than 1.8 million. And this of course says nothing about those who remain displaced from before 2007.
Section One (below) provides detailed accounts of sources for the data summarized above, as well as explanations of inferences and representative accounts of particular episodes of displacement. I offer as well some thoughts about why the UN has distorted this most basic reality in Darfur today. Section Two looks at the lives of displaced persons from the standpoint of health and malnutrition reports, as humanitarian relief aid continues to shrink amidst growing insecurity. Section Three looks at reports of attacks on displaced persons attempting to return to their lands and homes, the violent means of intimidation deployed, and other factors limiting the civilian “returns” that the UN disingenuously celebrates.
SECTION ONE: Human displacement in Darfur
Here are the data totals for the years since 2007:
• Displacement for 2007: OCHA estimated that more than 300,000 Darfuris were newly displaced(UN OCHA, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 30: conditions as of January 1, 2008; http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-30-situation-01-jan-2008
• Displacement for 2008: OCHA estimated that 317,000 Darfuris were newly displaced; (UN OCHA, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34: conditions as of January 1, 2009; http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-34-situation-01-jan-2009
By the end of 2008, OCHA estimated that 2.7 million Darfuris were internally displaced; this did not include the more than 250,000 Darfuri refugees then in eastern Chad. http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-34-situation-01-jan-2009
• Displacement for 2009: In this year of humanitarian expulsions, OCHA promulgated no figure of its own, indeed ended publication of its data-rich “Darfur Humanitarian Profiles.” But data were still being collected: the Canadian “Peace Operations Monitor” found evidence suggesting that “over 214,000 people were newly displaced [in Darfur] between January and June  alone.” (http://pom.peacebuild.ca/SudanRelief.shtml)
Given the reports of violent displacement that followed June 2009, a total figure for the year of 250,000 seems conservative.
• Displacement for 2010: the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre collected data suggesting that approximately 270,000 people were newly displaced in Darfur (http://tinyurl.com/n6fzjx). This figure was last updated on January 4, 2011, and thus is highly unlikely to have taken full account of the large-scale displacement of December 2010. The OCHA Sudan Bulletin (January 7 – 13, 2011) reported that the “overall number of people displaced during the December 2010 fighting in the area of Khor Abeche stands at 43,000.”
300,000 newly displaced for the year again seems a conservative figure;
• Displacement for 2011: There is no aggregation of the data, and what data there are cannot be considered adequate to measure the full scale of displacement; but various reports suggest that the scale of displacement certainly did not diminish dramatically, and may well have increased significantly in eastern regions of Darfur following the defection of Minni Minawi and his Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) fighters from the Khartoum regime in late 2010:
§ UN IRIN (Nairobi) reports, March 16, 2011:
Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps inNorth and South Darfur since January. At least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp.
[These OCHA figures almost certainly do not include the many Zaghawa displaced in eastern Darfur; see “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players” (below)].
• Radio Dabanga [Nertiti, West Darfur], 24 July 2011: Twenty families fled from Nertiti camp to Zalingei camp in West Darfur, after repeated attacks by militias. Coordinator of the Zalingei camps, told Radio Dabanga from camp Hamidiya, that new displacements are being caused by militia attacks, as well as by members of the uniformed services. These attacks include sexual assault and abuses at farms. He told Radio Dabanga, that, this month, the two camps (north and south) near the city of Nertiti, have seen armed militias take over in the territory of the displaced.
Tens of Thousands flee violence from the air and on the ground North Darfur Radio Dabanga, June 1, 2011:
The aerial bombardments, killings and rapes have caused a reported 140,000 people to flee for safety since mid-December. The fighting in December already caused 40,000 people to flee from their homes. Since January, an additional 83,000 newly arrived IDPs have been reported at Zam Zam camp, and another 15,000 in camps near Nyala, Tawila and Khor Abeche. Shortage in food, water and fuel increase humanitarian suffering in the camps, where there is a sharp increase in deaths among children and infants since April. The renewed fighting began after the Sudanese government severed ties with the Sudan Liberation Army rebel faction loyal to Minni Minawi (SLA-MM). The bombardments and fighting is mainly located in the area of east Jebel Marra. (from Small Arms Survey, “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players,” Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana, July 2012)
Late 2010 and the first half of 2011 saw a significant offensive by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and militias, backed by airstrikes and aerial bombardments, targeting both rebel groups and the Zaghawa civilian population across a broad swathe of eastern Darfur. Significantly, the Government of Sudan has partly shifted away from using Arab proxy militias only to rely on newly formed (and newly armed) non-Arab proxies. This development has fundamentally changed the ethnic map of eastern Darfur, drawing on previously latent tensions between non-Arab groups over land, ethnicity, and local political dominance—and generating some of the most significant ethnically directed violence since the start of the conflict in 2003.
NB: There is little evidence that the UN or UNAMID took any statistical account of the displacement that resulted from Khartoum’s new orchestration of ethnically-targeted violence in eastern Darfur.
In light of the evidence and reports presented here, the most reasonable estimate for 2011—based on inadequate data, inadequate because the UN and UNAMID refuse to collect it—is approximately 200,000 newly displaced, again a conservative estimate.
• Displacement for 2012: Again, there is no detailed aggregation of data that I am aware of that looks with any specificity at violence that displaced or killed civilians in 2012.
[ In fact, mortality data and quantification have long been a taboo subject concerning the Darfur conflict, even as the extant data suggested that in August 2010 some 500,000 peoplehad already died from violence as well as the disease and malnutrition that have come in the wake of the violence (http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2269/]
Khartoum’s evident sensitivities over any discussion or release of data on the subject have produced a complete silence. ]
With respect to displacement, the UN appears content with a figure of 90,000 – 100,000 newly displaced civilians for the year 2012. I believe this significantly understates the scale of displacement for the year and offer here a compendium of reports that must figure in any accounting:
[ Section Two, which follows, includes relevant excerpts bearing on the threats that the displaced encounter—both in flight and in the camps—as well indications of mortality among the displaced. Section Three examines the fearsome dangers encountered by displaced persons—overwhelmingly from the African/non-Arab tribal groups of Darfur—on attempting to reclaim their homes and lands. ]
• UNAMID: alleged air strikes cause displacement North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher] 21 December 2012) A press statement issued by UNAMID on Friday, 21 December, claims that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have allegedly carried out air strikes in Shangil Tobaya and Tawila localities, North Darfur. It was added that UNAMID deployed a patrol to Dalma and Dady villages to verify the reported air strikes in the area, but was denied access by SAF. The statement said that UNAMID received reports of an increased number of displacements of civilians from Daly, Kotto, Msaleet, Nomaira, Dawa Sharafa, Dolma and Hemaida villages in Shangil Tobaya area.
[Other reports received by Radio Dabanga indicated] that civilians from Kunjura, Hashaba, Namira and Masal villages have fled to Argo camp in Tawila area as a result of air strikes allegedly carried out by SAF on 18 December 2012.
• 1,000 people flee Sigili (Radio Dabanga [Sigili], November 10, 2012) About 1,000 people, or 140 families, from Sigili in Shawa area, North Darfur, have reportedly fled their village following the militia attack that left 13 people dead last Friday, 2 November, locals told Radio Dabanga. According to sources, virtually all inhabitants left the Shawa area and are moving to El-Fasher and to Zam Zam camp, they explained to Radio Dabanga on Thursday, 8 November. In addition, reports concerning a new imminent attack in Sigili by a militia based in Kalimandou, have also influenced the large displacement of residents, according to witnesses.
• 280 displaced families arrive at Zam Zam (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam camp], December 7, 2012) An activist from Zam Zam camp near El-Fasher, North Darfur, announced that 280 families from East Jebel Marra have arrived at the camp on Friday, 7 December. He asserted these families are fleeing aerial bombardments and ground assaults, in addition to the looting of thousands carried out by pro-government militias around East Jebel Marra one week ago. Many of the individuals are in poor health after walking for seven days to reach the camp.
• More than 12,000 fled Hashaba (Radio Dabanga [Hashaba], October 19, 2012) Residents from Hashaba, North Darfur, estimate that between 12 and 13 thousand people have fled the area due to recent attacks, Radio Dabanga was informed on Friday, 19 October. They described the region as “virtually deserted” after the militia attacks and aerial bombings last September. According to witnesses, Hashaba and surrounding areas including Umm Laota, Khashim Wadi and Tabadiya are completely abandoned…. Sources added that villages got completely burnt during the recent attacks and that the situation in the region is now tense, as fear and insecurity dominate local residents. They said the humanitarian situation in the area is critical and that it requires urgent intervention.
• Arrival of more than 2,000 people fled Hashaba attacks (Radio Dabanga [Mellit], September 30, 2012) More than 2,000 people who fled the recent attacks around Hashaba have arrived to Ba’ashim area, north of Mellit, North Darfur, on Sunday, 30 September, Radio Dabanga was informed. Sources told Radio Dabanga that these people traveled for three days by foot, hiding around mountains and valleys when it was light and moving only by night. This way, sources explained, the victims could avoid being found by pro-government militias during their journey to Ba’ashim. Witnesses said these people are suffering from fatigue, adding that they barely ate or drank anything during the three days they traveled. They added that the 2,000 people who arrived in Ba’ashim represent only one fourth of the victims who fled the Hashaba attacks. According to witnesses accounts, Hashaba and surrounding villages saw intense aerial bombardments last Wednesday and Thursday, 26 and 27 September. In addition, pro-government militias were also accused by sources of invading the area during the same period. The attacks allegedly resulted in more than 80 people dead or injured around Hashaba area, sources told Radio Dabanga.
• Sudan army and SRF clash, bombs kill 15 (Radio Dabanga [East Jebel Marra], September 19, 2012) Heavy clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) took place between Tabet and Khazan Tinjur, in East Jebel Marra, North Darfur, on Wednesday morning, 19 September, according to witnesses. The amount of fatal victims is not yet known. Victims who fled their villages in east Tabet due to the SAF bombings informed Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that the Sudanese army is carrying out a retaliation campaign against them. They claimed to having been beaten, insulted and humiliated, adding that many were also arrested. Residents also said that their conditions are dire, as they have no water or food….
On Tuesday, 18 September, 13 people died in two separate incidents took place between Zam Zam and Tabet. Radio Dabanga was informed that both accidents were caused by bombs dropped by the SAF. On Wednesday, September 19 witnesses affirmed that SAF bombings killed a nine-year-old girl and left her mother in critical condition. They said Suad Bakr Hamid and her mother, Khadija Omar Mohammed Issa, were hit when traveling from their farm to their home in El-Kunjar, north of Tabet, on a horse cart. Another farmer was killed by an SAF bomb while working in his land in the same area, Radio Dabanga has learned.
The aerial bombardments in East Jebel Marra led to a new wave of civilian displacement from cities and villages to IDP camps, camps leaders from Dali and Rwanda told Radio Dabanga. They said that 87 families arrived in their camps, located in Tawila locality, between Saturday and Wednesday this week. The leaders pointed out that people are coming from the villages of Goz Duru, Timo, Derty and Argo in East Jebel Marra. In addition, they said the condition of these families is critical.
• Hundreds displaced due to bombings in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra], August 6, 2012) Hundreds were displaced from east Jebel Mara to Tawila locality, North Darfur. According to a witness, this is the result of the Sudanese Armed Forces’ (SAF) intensive bombing on east Jebel Mara throughout the week.A source informed Radio Dabanga that residents from the villages of Arosha, Hijer, Deloomi, Humeda, Sabi, Wadi Mora, and Tangarara were moved to Tawila locality in North Darfur. One of the fugitives said that dozens of people, including a large number of women, children and elders, are still in open fields, forests and valleys. They have no food, no medicine and no shelter. He added that after the bombings pro-government militias chased and dragged the people out of their homes and plundered their livestock.
• UN: 25,000 displaced by latest unrest in Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Kutum], August 10, 2012) UN reports indicate that the entire population of Kassab IDP camp in North Darfur has fled as a result of the recent fighting. There were more than 25,000 IDPs in Kassab camp. The fighting erupted after a district chief, Abdelrahman Mohammed Eissa, was shot dead in Kutum during a carjacking attempt. Eissa’s tribesmen retaliated by killing two displaced persons and a police officer.
• Thousands displaced on border of Darfur-South Sudan (Radio Tamazuj [Juba] July 11, 2012) Border clashes and insecurity along the border between Western Bahr El Ghazal and South Darfur have affected thousands of people in Raja County, causing displacement and suffering, according to the county executive.
• 7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], April 2, 2012) More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ‘7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’ said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ‘They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness.
• 3,000 displaced in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], March 27, 2012) The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines.
• Heavy shelling forces villagers out of homes in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [North Darfur], March 15, 2012) Heavy shelling took place across five villages in North Darfur forcing residents to flee from their homes. Witnesses said an Antonov plane bombed the villages of Dika, Bain, Keda, Jok and Senagarai over the past three days and is still circling the area. They said planes dropped more than 40 bombs as ground troops in six tanks and 150 vehicles moved in to the villages beating male residents, looting and burning houses. The soldiers also reportedly raped more than 30 women and girls and arrested ten of the men. Witnesses said villagers fled to Wadi Maghrib in the desert area where they are now surrounded by government forces.
• 1,500 displaced need food assistance in El Daein (Radio Dabanga [El Daein], March 6, 2012) 1,500 displaced people from the villages of Uzban, Um Kurkut, Keiluk in northeast Darfur, are experiencing severe lack of access to food in el-Daein, East Darfur. The group consisting mainly of women, children and the elderly, arrived in el-Daein in February last year. A witness told Radio Dabanga the World Food Programme distributed tarpaulins and tents for the displaced, and promised them food which is yet to materialise.
• Abu Delik displaced families seeking refuge at UNAMID HQ (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam camp], February 29, 2012) 120 families displaced from Abu Delik, the area that witnessed heavy fighting last week, and an adjacent area Sag Al Nagam have refused to leave the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) headquarters, in Zam Zam internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, near El Fasher. Newly displaced families were reportedly attacked by Abu Tira forced on arrival to the camp… The witness said there are 60 families currently seeking protection inside UNAMID’s HQ, and 160 families have been staying just outside the base since Tuesday. He noted that the new IDPs are mainly children, women and the elderly, and added that Zam Zam is experiencing an daily influx of IDPs traveling on foot and donkey.
• Government forces storm village near El Fasher (Radio Dabanga [Abu Delik], February 24, 2012) On Thursday, government forces attacked Abu Delik village, southeast of el-Fasher in North Darfur, killing one person and injuring six others…. Eyewitnesses said the force stormed the area at 10:00am indiscriminately attacking, beating, and abusing villagers, who had welcomed the soldiers into the area. They said the troops killed a man, named as Salih Adam El Daw, and injured six others. The soldiers looted homes and shops before burning some of them down. Many residents fled the area.
Perhaps the most remarkable statement concerning displacement in Darfur came the previous year from the Humanitarian Protection Strategy section of the UN/AU mission in August 2011:
• 400,000 displaced in West Jebel Marra; region needs urgent humanitarian aid (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra], August 16, 2011: Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced in West Jebel Marra areas, the Humanitarian Protection Strategy of the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said on Tuesday. “The assessments so far conducted confirm that approximately 400,000 people are displaced in Jebel Marra area,” said Oriano Micaletti, head of the UNAMID Humanitarian Protection Strategy. “They have received very limited assistance during the last few years and are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.” There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid according to the Humanitarian Protection Strategy of the Mission.
There is no evidence that this extraordinarily large figure is included in UN calculations about total human displacement in Darfur; indeed, statements by former UN/AU joint special representative Ibrahim Gambari would seem almost pointedly to ignore this finding when he was busy trumpeting his successful accomplishments as JSR last summer before leaving UNAMID.
It should be emphasized that in the absence of any meaningful security provisions for Darfur, fighting between Arab tribal groups has also dramatically increased displacement in recent years, and Arab groups make up a much greater percentage of the total displaced population.
• Displacement for 2012: The total for 2012 suggested by the reports above—far from complete and with many offering no estimates of numbers displaced—appears to be between 150,000 and 200,000. Moreover, the character and consequences of displacement are certainly much more fully represented in these dispatches than in any recent UN or UNAMID accounts. I include in calculations for total displacement a figure of 150,000 displaced for 2012, but accept that it is only a crude estimate, based chiefly on calculations of displacement during the episodes presented above. If this figure is even approximately accurate, given the displacement estimate for 2011 (approximately 200,000), it is not true, as claimed by Amos and Ban, that the figure of 300,000 “exceeds the total for the preceding two years”—2011 and 2012.
Accepting the UN figure of 300,000 newly displaced in 2013, and aggregating the other figures offered here for human displacement in Darfur from 2007 to the present, yields a ghastly total of approximately 1.8 million human beings newly displaced. This is a figure greater than the current UN figure for total current displacement in all of Darfur, i.e., those displaced before and after 2007.
Whatever qualifications must be made for double-counting (i.e., those people who have been displaced more than once), temporary displacement (the 30,000 people at Kassab camp displaced in August 2012 returned to this insecure location within a matter of weeks following brutal attacks), whatever (highly limited) success there has been in returning IDPs to their lands and homes, such a vast figure incinerates the credibility of people such as Joint AU/UN Special Representatives Aichatu Mindaoudou, who—with former JSR Rodolphe Adada and Ibrahim Gambari—has taken her place in a continuing spectacle of mendacity. For on the basis of almost no understanding of Darfur, Ms. Mindaoudou very recently joined her predecessors in offering a culpably distorted characterization of Darfur, declaring last month that “the numbers of people affected by violence had decreased each year between 2008 and 2011.” Such lies ensure that Darfur’s crisis will continue to intensify, and its suffering will be rendered even less visible.
Moreover, all signs are that large-scale human displacement will continue so long as security remains in free-fall in Darfur (see March 20, 2013 analysis of security conditions at http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2269).
Even since mid-May of this year, when the UN first promulgated its figure of 300,000 newly displaced civilians in 2013, there is clear evidence of substantial, ongoing human displacement:
• Gimr-Beni Halba clashes leave 94 dead, 6,500 displaced in South Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Katayla, South Darfur], May 30, 2013) [The Gimr are one of the smaller non-Arab/African tribal group in South Darfur—ER]Tribal clashes involving the Gimr and Beni Halba in South Darfur have left a total of 94 people dead and another 65 injured since they resumed in March in Katayla locality, a Gimr stronghold. A UN OCHA report released on Thursday states that an estimated 6,500 people have fled Katayla and have sought refuge in Tullus.
Speaking to Radio Dabanga, Gimr spokesman Abkar Al Toum, added that 1,200 houses were torched, five water wells destroyed, 14 villages were set ablaze and all the property of the inhabitants stolen. Al Toum said that 22 Gimr died in attacks on Monday and Tuesday in Kabba, Butab Abu Bashir, Umm Gutiya, Kabo, Amud Al Sah, Ati Kena, and Ajuekheen, while 32 were wounded, of whom 11 were taken to Nyala hospital on Thursday.
• Central Darfur’s Umm Dukhun “virtually deserted” after clashes resumed (Radio Dabanga [Umm Dukhun], May 30, 2013) Umm Dukhun city in [formerly West] Darfur, which has witnessed renewed violent tribal clashes between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes, was virtually deserted as of Thursday morning. In addition, shops and markets have been closed since hostilities resumed earlier this week.
UN figures on displacement in Darfur
In the past that both the UN and UNAMID have deliberately distorted and misrepresented displacement figures, a corruption I have addressed at several moments in recent years, including:
• “How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?” Dissent Magazine[on-line], April 28, 2011, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/how-many-internally-displaced-persons-are-there-in-darfur
• Updated, August 31, 2012, with a critical examination of UN statistical methodology:http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2320
Also dismaying is the repeated failure to highlight the total of Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, a population that has recently increased dramatically. There are now 330,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, a surge of some 50,000,confirmed by both the UN High Commission for Refugees and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); the latter reported from Tissi, eastern Chad (April 26, 2013): “Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March .
Even more invisibly, Darfuri refugees continue to suffer in Central African Republic, thousands of whom were only recently displaced into this exceedingly remote area:
• UNHCR new release, May 31, 2013 (http://www.unhcr.org/51a8b7756.html) The UN refugee agency has established contact with some 3,500 Sudanese refugees who made their way to northeast Central African Republic after fleeing inter-tribal conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region two months ago. Refugees are presently scattered in the Birao, Boromata and Roukoutou districts, which are difficult to access. UNHCR staff in Central African Republic were finally able to meet some of the refugees in Birao on May 23. The refugees said their villages in Am Djeradil district had been torched during the clashes in March and many people killed. Some families were also separated during the confusion, with hundreds heading to Central African Republic and thousands of others crossing the border into southeast Chad.
SECTION TWO: Displacement and Humanitarian Conditions
The fact that many people in camps are not receiving WFP food rations, or rations that are shamefully meager, should give pause and raises serious questions about the competency of WFP, OCHA, and UNAMID. Most urgently: why is the international community not being informed about the scale of deterioration in the humanitarian conditions throughout Darfur?
Certainly a number of the dispatches (below) from particular camps make painfully clear the severe deprivation that Darfuris are suffering. Here it is important to bear in mind that many of the various threats faced by displaced persons are a function of the rampant insecurity throughout Darfur, which makes adequate humanitarian response impossible. Khartoum’s security forces continue to deny access on a regular basis—to both UNAMID and relief organizations, including those of the UN. Humanitarian conditions in the camps are clearly deteriorating rapidly, with food and clean water in particularly short supply. This comes just as the heavy seasonal rains are about to begin, making transport extremely difficult to many locations. Conditions will become ideal for water-borne diseases; the rains will also exacerbate the problem of finding clean water and addressing acute sanitation and hygiene issues. The potential for skyrocketing mortality is yet again clearly present.
And reports from Chad indicate that the Darfuri refugees are an increasingly invisible and under-served population. The reports are scattered, but telling:
• Serious water shortage in eastern Chad camp; refugees facing threat of diseases as they use contaminated water from nearby valleys (Radio Dabanga [Brejean, also Bredjing], August 9, 2012) Nearly 45,000 Sudanese [Darfuri] refugees from the Brejean camp (eastern Chad) are suffering from acute water shortage after the water pump’s generator broke down, residents complained on Tuesday. This has resulted in refugees traveling to nearby valleys in search of water for drinking and domestic purposes. The water from the valleys is, however, not suitable for consumption. Refugees in the camp told Radio Dabanga that the water was contaminated by both human and animal waste and carcasses leading to the spread of waterborne diseases, especially among children.
• Food shortage in eastern Chad camp (Radio Dabanga [Eastern Chad], August 22, 2012) 537 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad’s Gaga camp have not received their food rations since last June, a sheikh in the camp told Radio Dabanga on Monday. Sheikh Mohammed Ismail said, “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has asked the veteran refugees in the camp to share their food rations with the new arrivals until August, which should have been the next date for replenishing the food stocks.” However, the refugees were surprised when the UNHCR asked them to prolong that initiative until October. The decision was therefore vehemently rejected by the refugees. Sheikh Mohammed Ismail added, “The new arrivals were registered as refugees and must receive food on showing their food ration cards.”
From the camps in Darfur itself, Radio Dabanga yet again provides our most concrete and revealing examples—indeed, in most cases the only examples. The selection here is representative, but hardly exhaustive. What is indisputable is that humanitarian conditions in Darfur have been deteriorating ever more rapidly over the past year, often for reasons directly related to insecurity, especially in the transport of food:
• 22 displaced die in two weeks (Radio Dabanga, [Garsila, West Darfur], October 16, 2012) The increasing spread of diseases in Garsila camps, West Darfur, led to the death of 22 displaced persons in the first half of October, camp representatives told Radio Dabanga, on Tuesday October 16. A camps’ sheikh told Radio Dabanga that residents of three of Garsila’s camps (Jeddah, Ardeeba and Jebelain) are facing critical health conditions as diseases like malaria, dry cough and diarrhea are spreading rapidly. He added that mainly children and elderly are suffering.
• 16 deaths in Kendebe camp (Radio Dabanga [Kendebe camp] October 8, 2012) A Kendebe camp activist, in West Darfur, announced that 16 displaced persons have died in the past few weeks due to different kinds of diseases, Radio Dabanga has learned on Sunday, 7 October. He explained that many doctors prescribe medications that must be purchased from the market, instead of providing it to patients, adding that most displaced cannot afford buying medicines.
• Diseases spreading rapidly in Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher], September 16, 2012) Health Minister of the Darfur Regional Authority, Osman El-Bushra, revealed the spread of diseases such as leprosy, scabies, tuberculosis, night blindness, river blindness, malaria, schistosomiasis and typhoid among the population of Darfur. He attributes the spread of these diseases to malnutrition, poverty, a lack of health and therapeutic institutions, and the deteriorating security situation in the region.
• “Catastrophic” medical services in Darfur region (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher], September 18, 2012) The Minister of Health from the Darfur Regional Authority, Osman Al-Bushra, told Radio Dabanga that health and medical services in all five states of Darfur are “tragic and catastrophic.” The minister stated that West Darfur, with a population of 1,202,506 inhabitants according to the last census in 2010, is the state with the worst health conditions in the region.
• Starvation in three camps of South Darfur after pull out aid organizations (Radio Dabanga [Nyala], June 22, 2012) Children have died due to malnutrition after aid organizations pulled out of three camps, 40 kilometers outside the South Darfur capital of Nyala. Community leaders have urged aid organizations to resume health and food support in the displaced camps of Mershing, Manaoshi and Duma in South Darfur…. In the past week tens of children and several elderly people died of to malnutrition. The community leader says that starvation is the result of the aid organizations stopped providing food rations to IDPs for more than eight months. He added that since circumstances are increasingly challenging an insufficient number of health centers near the IDP camps. Camp leaders told Radio Dabanga that around 60 percent of camp residents are suffering of continuous hunger, since food rations were stopped, forcing some to go for days without a meal.
• Poor health conditions leave dozens dead in Mornei (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], September 21, 2012) Residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are suffering from poor health conditions as diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhea are spreading rapidly. In addition to the rapidly spreading diseases, the residents suffer from malnutrition and a lack of health-care and medication. One of the sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that the report [composed by the camp sheikhs] revealed the death of 64 elderly and 30 children between the ages of one and five over the past two weeks. In addition, the report confirmed that the majority of deaths are a result of diseases like malaria and typhoid.
• El Riyadh camp: one medical clinic for 30,000 residents (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina] August 28, 2012) Radio Dabanga was informed today that there is only one medical clinic available at the El Riyadh camp in El-Geneina, West Darfur. The camp counts 30,000 residents who claim to face a serious humanitarian crisis. A camp’s activist told Radio Dabanga that the three most serious issues in El Riyadh are lack of security, lack of water and lack of medical services. He added there is also scarcity of nurses and of midwives at the camp. The source said this situation arose after June 2011 when the Government of Sudan expelled medical international humanitarian organizations from the camp. He explained the international organizations were substituted by the Sudanese Ministry of Health.
• Several camps Darfur do not receive food aid for four months (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], June 23, 2012) Several camps in North Darfur have not received food aid for several months. The ten thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) of Zam Zam-camp in North Darfur and the camps of Jeddah and El Jebelayn close to the town of Garsila in [formerly West] Darfur, said the World Food Programme does not enter the camps anymore to support the families most in need. Several camps in North Darfur have not received food aid for several months. A camp leader of Zam Zam tells Radio Dabanga that the WFP has not delivered food rations to over 800 poor and malnourished families as it did in the past.
• Six children die from measles in Seraf Umra camps (Radio Dabanga [Seraf Umra, North Darfur], June 6, 2012) Six children have died from measles in over past week in Jebel, Dankoj and El Naseem camps in Seraf Umra in North Darfur. They expressed deep concern at the quick spread of diseases in the camp due to the lack of health care….
• Six months with no aid for South Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [South Darfur], June 5, 2012) Residents of Mershing, Manaoshi and Duma camps for displaced people in South Darfur have received not humanitarian aid or support for over six months. Camp leaders told Radio Dabanga that around 60 percent of camp residents are suffering with continuous hunger, since food rations were stopped forcing some to go for days without having a meal. One leader said they have been complaining for months about the situation with no help coming from the international community….
• Sheikh, displaced concerned about food distribution in Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [Nyala], June 2, 2013 The displaced people ofAttash [also Otash] camp near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, have voiced concern about the World Food Programme (WPF) distribution plans. The WPF have decided to delegate the distribution of food to traders, while the displaced would prefer it occur via the distribution centres established by World Vision, launched on 30 May. The Sheikh of the camp Abdel Karim Abkar, explained to Radio Dabanga on Saturday that “the displaced base their rejection on their negative experience in the past with Elbadrain Charity Organization (ECO) which distributed coupons to be used for grinding corn.” “The owners of mills later refused to accept the coupons under the pretext that they had not been not been paid, as a result this led to the collapse of the project,” he added. In camp Attash, about 3,200 newly displaced families are suffering a humanitarian crisis due to the lack of water and health services.
• Abu Suruj camp: no food aid for six months (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 28, 2012) Residents of Abu Suruj camp for internally displaced people said they have not received food aid for more than six months. Witnesses said the camps north of El Geneina are reaching a desperate situation and called for the World Food Programme to immediately intervene and deliver food aid to people in need of urgent assistance.
• Jebel Marra residents stranded with no aid access (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra] May 27, 2012) The coordinator of internally displaced person camps in North Darfur, Ahmed Atim said the situation of civilians in Jebel Marra is becoming desperate. He said civilians are stranded with no access from humanitarian organisations including the World Food Programme (WFP).
• Mornei camp food rations reduced by half (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp] May 29, 2012) Mornay camp residents have complained that the World Food Programme have reduced food rations by half. A camp leader told Radio Dabanga that the rations were reduced without any explanation from the WFP. He appealed to the WFP to resume full rations and remember the difficulties facing displaced people in buying food from the market, amid food shortages and high prices.
• WFP: 30 per cent of Darfur threatened with food insecurity (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher] May 22, 2012) The World Food Programme says that 30 percent of the population of Darfur is threatened with food insecurity and in need of urgent aid. The Programme conducted surveys in Darfur finding around 30 percent to be in need of urgent assistance, said WFP Field Coordinator Adham Mesallami to Radio Dabanga. He said that families told the WFP about their inability to cover their daily needs for food.
• Kassab displaced describe situation as famine (Radio Dabanga [Kassab camp], May 9, 2012) Displaced people in Kassab camp in North Darfur have described their current condition as ‘famine,’ due to the reduction in food provided by the World Food Programme and the unprecedented high prices of food at the market. An activist from Kassab told Radio Dabanga that many families are now eating berries and nuts as they are unable to survive on the reduced rations.
• WFP reduces rations in El Geneina camps (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 9, 2012) A group of displaced people from 10 camps across El Geneina said the World Food Programme told them on Monday that their rations of maize will be reduced by 50 percent. They said this have caused widespread discontent in the camps that are already suffering from food shortages and hunger. A camp leader that attended the meeting told Radio Dabanga that the WFP representatives justified the reduced ration by not being able to transport the required quantities, as truck drivers are reluctant to move around with the current security situation.
The future for the children who have known nothing but life in the camps is grim beyond description, though susceptible of some quantification:
• Measles outbreak kills 25 children in Gereida camp (Radio Dabanga [Gereida, South Darfur], May 4, 2012) At least 25 children have died from measles during a recent outbreak in Gereida camp in South Darfur. A camp official said there is a high rate of infection spreading amongst children. She appealed to humanitarian organisations, health officials and the World Health Organisation to immediately act to intervene and stop the disease from spreading and risking more lives.
§• 75 per cent of Darfur’s refugee children show PTSD symptoms; study conducted by a UK journal says 38 per cent meet clinical criteria for depression (Radio Dabanga, August 12, 2011)
• 75 per cent of the children in Darfur’s refugee camps met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to an interview-based study released by The Lancet, a UK-based health journal, on Thursday. The study also concluded that 38 per cent of refugee children in camps fulfilled clinical symptoms for depression. The research carried out by the Oxford-based group is meant to add to information about mental health issues faced by refugee children.
SECTION THREE: Are there meaningful “returns” of displaced persons in Darfur? What guarantees are there that the returns will be safe and voluntary?
When addressing the question of displaced persons in Darfur, the UN and UNAMID inevitably speak of their success in beginning a program of “safe and voluntary returns.” The claims made are hotly disputed by Darfuris, and the success stories are often revealed to be shams or, worse, set-ups for violent confrontation with well-armed Arab group that have opportunistically seized farms and land; there are continuous reports of these Arab groups coming from Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, and even Mali. Certainly the UN and UNAMID are particularly culpable in failing to report “returns” that are unsuccessful, often dramatically so.
For such honesty would compromise a narrative that has been relentlessly and shamelessly promulgated for several years, viz., that safe and voluntary returns have begun in significant numbers, and that the UN and African Union have succeeded in Darfur. But the frequency and detail of Radio Dabanga reports indicate that the lands of sedentary African/non-Arab tribal groups displaced by violence remain too dangerous to return to. The numbers of “returns” the UN claims—in the tens of thousands and still but a very small fraction of the number of newly displaced persons—seem to be based on a counting method that takes little account of the violence that characteristically returning displaced:
• Armed herders burn village of voluntary return in West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Mesteriha], December 10, 2012) Armed herders have reportedly injured five members of the armed forces and burnt the village of Ronja for voluntary return as well as two other villages to the ground, destroying crops and around 10 kilometers of agricultural lands, sources informed Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 9 December. Sources from the area reported that the attacks started on Friday when farmers informed the police about trespassing of herders onto their farmlands.
• Armed group shoots man, expels farmers from land, (Radio Dabanga [Gereida, South Darfur] June 14, 2012) An armed group of 30 members traveling on horses shot a man and tried to expel farmers from their land near Gereida in South Darfur. Witnesses said the men entered a village and shot Muhannad Yacob from Al Safa while he was tending to his farm. They said Yacob was taken to hospital in Gereida for treatment. They added that militias try to take over farmlands belonging to displaced people as many are still living in the camps, forgoing the right to their land.
• Armed militias seize farms in Kreinik, West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], July 8, 2012) IDPs returning to their lands in Kreinik, 36 km east of Geneina, found that their properties had been seized by armed militias. A sheikh [told Radio Dabanga that] IDPs returning to cultivate their lands during the rainy season in West Darfur were stopped by militias.
Further dispatches from the past year concerning threats to returning civilians can be found, along with a conclusion to this brief, in Part 2: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=