Eric Reeves •
PART TWO: Malnutrition, Water and Sanitation, Morbidity, Primary Medical Care, and Mortality
I. Health and Primary Medical Care
(See also Appendix VI, Primary Medical Care, http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4161)
Health reports provided by Radio Dabanga indicate just how inadequate primary health care is, with acute diarrhea the primary indicator. Reports here are arranged in chronological order from late spring through late July, which allows the grim forecasts of the camp sheikhs and leaders to be tragically vindicated by events. What is also clear from these reports is that those newly displaced are likely to be both more vulnerable to illness and less likely to gain access to medical care:
• Citizens and displaced in South Darfur are complaining about the “deteriorating conditions” of a local public hospital, which “lacks drinking water” and faces frequent power shortages. Sources from Girayda also said that due to high medicine prices, the hospital does not have enough drugs for its patients. This is causing the spread of diseases and it is worsening the situation of the sick, Radio Dabanga has leaned. In addition, treatments at the Girayda hospital are also “exorbitantly” expensive. (Girayda, South Darfur, 25 April 2013)
• The poor humanitarian conditions for displaced people at El Salam camp in South Darfur are deteriorating as thousands continue to arrive at the site. To aggravate the situation, a sheikh said that this week alone, eight people died of disease while two were killed by militiamen. The current population of El Salam camp near Nyala exceeds 85,000, and is growing daily. Many have arrived since the beginning of March. The displaced are fleeing tribal clashes and battles between government and rebel forces. Sheik Mahjoub Adam Tabeldiya said that the Nyala population has doubled as a result. Tabeldiya said that this week’s death toll includes six children siblings, the children of Hawaa Musa Abdullah and Kaltoum Ibrahim Abdullah. “Hundreds of people have been infected with various diseases, including kala-azar (visceral leishmanaisis, also known as black fever), with many coughing, vomiting and suffering from conjunctivitis.” “Hundreds of people queuing-up at El Salam’s overstretched health centre every day,” he said. The sheikh appealed to health organisations to move and save the patients. (Militia attacks, diseases kill 10 in South Darfur camp, El Salam Camp, South Darfur, 21 May 2013)
• The sheikh of a camp near Nyala, South Darfur, has told Radio Dabanga the deteriorating heath and sanitary conditions at the site have resulted in the death of four children, and caused four women to miscarry this week. In addition, five children have died of diarrhoea at a camp in the vicinity. Sheikh Abdul Karim Abakar of Attash camp says that as relief organisations have not yet provided support for the newly displaced to build houses, the four women concerned have only their own clothing to shelter themselves and their children from the sun. There is inadequate sanitation, which forces many of the displaced to defecate in the open, he said. Sheikh Abkar warned about the spread of disease at the camp, especially as more displaced people arrive every day. He made an urgent appeal to humanitarian aid organisations to “move quickly to save the sick.” The Attash [also Otash] camp is far from unique. An activist told Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that five children have died of diarrhoea at Dreige camp where the disease is spreading fast. The activist warned of “an impending health disaster.” (Disease kills children, causes miscarriages in camps near Nyala, South Darfur, Nyala, 22 May 2013)
• During the second quarter of 2013, the spread of diarrhoea, vomiting and malnutrition among the displaced of Kalma camp near Nyala, capital of South Darfur, has claimed the lives of at least 47 children and 18 pregnant women. Sheikh Bakhit Hamid, speaking to Radio Dabanga from Centre Eight of the camp, said that “the general situation of the newly displaced in terms of health and nutrition as very bad.” The sheikh explained that the situation is worse during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan: “Abdullah Abdulrahman died because of his insistence on fasting, even though he did not have anything to eat for breakfast. The problem of food has become worse, especially after relief organisations suspended their activities following the recent violence in South Darfur.” (Quarterly death toll of 47 children and 18 pregnant women in Kalma camp, South Darfur, Kalma camp, 18 July 2013)
II. Food and Malnutrition
(See also Appendix VII, “Food and Malnutrition,” http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4161)
It is scandalous that we have so little information specifically about malnutrition in Darfur—both Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)—especially since it is a region in which there have been chronic and at times severe food shortages. The vast compromising of agricultural production has left almost 3 million people dependent on humanitarian food assistance, and as humanitarian access contracts, the effects chronicled in these reports are inevitable. Insofar as we have global data, they do not reflect a disaggregation of data about conditions in Darfur; even so, they do suggest just how disastrously the current regime has responded to food needs throughout Sudan. The agricultural sector has declined badly under NIF/NCP rule, hunger is extraordinarily common—and yet there are vast areas besides Darfur in which humanitarian access is restricted or denied. The Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS NET), in its forecast for the period April – September 2013, offers some grim, indeed shocking figures:
In Sudan, an estimated 500,000 children under the age of five suffer from severe malnutrition and up to two million children are stunted, according to a recent report on malnutrition in Sudan produced by the Ministry of Health, the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) and partners…. According to the SHHS, 16.4 per cent of children in Sudan suffer from global acute malnutrition (GAM). This is a chronically high percentage, above the international emergency threshold of 15 per cent. Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rates are also high at 5.3 per cent. This means that one in 20 Sudanese children is severely acutely malnourished and at increased risk of death. (FEWSNet Food Security Outlook, April – September 2013, cited in OCHA Weekly Bulletin for Sudan #25, June 23, 2013)
• The same FEWS NET document finds:
In conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur and Abyei, Stressed and Crisis acute food insecurity persist. Food security conditions in SPLM-N controlled areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan are likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the peak of the lean season (June to September). IDPs and poor households in SPLM-N controlled areas are the worst hit by the conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan due to restricted population movement, loss of assets, no/limited access to cultivation, reduced access to employment and common income sources, reduced access to markets, and lack of access to humanitarian assistance.
In addition, the onset of rains will increase susceptibility to waterborne diseases (e.g., malaria and diarrhea) always associated with high acute malnutrition. The onset of rains will improve access to wild foods, especially leafy greens during the early months of the rainy season, but they are not expected to mitigate the large-scale food deficit during the peak lean season. In Darfur, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is likely through the scenario period in some conflict-affected areas (e.g., Jebel Mara (East Jebel Mara, Golo, Guldo and Rokero localities), Serief Beni Hissein, parts of Tawila, Dar Al Salam, Labadu, Mahajeiriya, Um Dokhon, El Fasher and Kuttum localities, and the newly displaced populations in Nertiti, Kebkabiya, Abu Gamra, Zamzam, Tawila, Kassa and Kebkabiya).
• The Medical Director of the Children’s Hospital in Port Sudan, Dr Zafaran Al Zaki, has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of acute malnutrition among children in eastern Sudan. In an interview with Radio Dabanga, Dr Al Zaki said that it is occurring in various segments of society, and affects about 30 per cent of children. She says that this figure can be expected to rise during the period from October to March, attributing it to “economic factors and the acute poverty among people of eastern Sudan.” (Sudan: ’30 Percent of Eastern Sudan Children Malnourished’ – Hospital Director, Radio Dabanga, 28 June 2013)
The full scale of the crisis in Darfur was frankly, if belatedly recognized by UN World Food Program in a recent dispatch from the UN News Center (July 23, 2013):
• The new wave of violence in Sudan’s Darfur region is threatening the ability of humanitarian organizations to assist the population and putting at risk long-term food security, the United Nations food relief agency said today. “We are deeply concerned with the developing situation which threatens fragile food security in this region,” said the World Food Programme’s Sudan Country Director, Adnan Khan. ”This is the season when people should be planting and working on farms but instead they are fleeing their villages, a significant number of them have even fled to the refugee camps in neighbouring Chad….” The majority of WFP’s operations in Sudan take place in Darfur, where the agency had planned to feed 2.7 million people at the beginning of the year, including 1.4 million living in camps. However, the recent displacements mean that the total number of people receiving assistance in Darfur is expected to climb above 2.9 million people. (Renewed clashes in Darfur threaten long-term food security in Sudan—UN agency, UN News Centre, 23 July 2013)
“the recent displacements mean that the total number of people receiving assistance in Darfur is expected to climb above 2.9 million people…”
This is the scale of the ongoing catastrophe in Darfur, ten year after conflict began.
So, what does “food insecurity” look like in Darfur? Radio Dabanga has provided all too many painfully revealing and detailed accounts:
• In the camps of Central Darfur, displaced children are suffering from malnutrition and lack of food with no health organisations able to provide support. This is proving to be an added affliction, over and above the intense rainfall and deteriorating security situation that residents must cope with each day. A camp leader told Radio Dabanga that there are about 35 children suffering from malnutrition at Camp Khor Ramla and similar cases have been reported in Nertiti, El Salam and other camps south of Nertiti. He pointed out that due to a failure to reach an agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP), food ration distribution was suspended in the camps—a measure that has been in effect for almost two months. “This has created very difficult humanitarian conditions.” The sheiks appealed to international organisations to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid, health and tarpaulins as a matter of urgency before a veritable humanitarian disaster erupts in the camps Nertiti. We urgently need tarpaulins and medicines to address the situation, especially as the rainy season has arrived. (Short rations make malnutrition rife among children in Central Darfur camps, Radio Dabanga, Nertiti camp, 30 May 2013)
• Reports are emerging from the Zalingei camps of Central Darfur of the spread of malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant women. The camps’ coordinator told Radio Dabanga that the numbers of those visiting health centres due to malnutrition has risen significantly. At a Tuesday meeting with humanitarian organizations, he highlighted that this is due to limiting the food ration in mixture and corn, as well as the reduced per capita distribution: ”In a number of Zalingei camps, displaced families are not receiving their food rations. This is because of errors during re-registration of cards, as well the relocation of significant numbers to Zalingei camps from Gildo, Nertiti and their peripheries due to the fighting there.” (Malnutrition spreads in Zalingei camps, [formerly West] Darfur, Zalingei, 2 May 2013)
[It is likely that UN agencies would offer a different account of the problems associated with re-registration in the camps, a fiendishly difficult problem.]
And the intersection of humanitarian relief efforts and insecurity was highlighted by the killing of World Visions workers on July 4, 2013:
• The displaced persons of Dreige camp near Nyala in South Darfur have appealed to the World Vision organisation to supply them with a ration of corn as soon as possible, especially as the holy month of Ramadan has already started. “An official from World Vision told us that the militia attack destroyed the organisation’s files on displaced persons, and all of the computers were stolen. Now, when they want to distribute food to the displaced, they don’t know where to start,” the youth leader said. “The residents of the camp are also concerned that large stocks of corn present in the camp might be a tempting target for the militiamen who constantly harass them.” The displaced residents of El Salam camp also expressed concern that the World Vision organisation might suspend its activity after the killing of its two employees. Sheikh Mahjoub Adam Tabaldiya explained to Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that reports that World Vision has suspended its activities are catastrophic for the displaced. (South Darfur displaced dread World Vision pull-out, Radio Dabanga, Nyala camps, 11 July 2013)
Here in miniature is an example of how problems in humanitarian capacity ripple through a ravaged Darfuri displaced population:
• The owners of grain mills at Dreige camp near Nyala, capital of South Darfur have refused to grind corn for displaced people, alleging that the World Food Programme “has not paid them the invoices for grinding corn.” A displaced woman from the camp told Radio Dabanga that when they brought their corn to the mills on Friday, the millers refused. She said the millers told her that they will only grind corn for displaced people again “once the WFP has paid them their bills of four months.” The woman pointed out that this decision “will double the suffering of the displaced, especially in the holy month of Ramadan” and appealed to the WFP to pay the millers’ bills. As reported recently by Radio Dabanga, scaled-down activities by humanitarian NGOs due to the deteriorating security situation throughout Darfur, logistical supply problems coupled with the increased demand during Ramadan has seen prices rise to levels that are unaffordable for most of the displaced. (WFP bills unpaid, so millers turn displaced away, Radio Dabanga, Dreige camp, 22 July 2013)
Khartoum’s responsibility for malnutrition in Sudan
If the African Union expects to be taken seriously in its efforts to confront hunger in Africa, it must identify those who have in fact done most to exacerbate this primary survival crisis; it cannot do so with headlines such as “Sudan’s Bashir arrives in Addis Ababa for meeting on hunger in Africa”:
• Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday to take part at a high level meeting of African and international leaders on ending hunger in Africa. African heads of states and ministers will consult on Monday on renewed partnership for a unified approach to end hunger in Africa. (Radio Dabanga, Addis Ababa, 20 June 2013)
This is simply scandalous al-Bashir and the regime he heads have no real concern for hunger, merely for the propaganda opportunity the AU has provided him in Addis. The attitude of al-Bashir’s regime toward hunger is perhaps best reflected in a restrained account from OCHA’s Weekly Bulletin of May 12, 2013:
“Stoppage of projects for malnourished children in Khartoum”
According to reports from UN agencies working in Khartoum State, the national NGO Al Manar was recently forced by security officials in Khartoum State to stop its projects for malnourished children in Mayo and Mandella camps for displaced people and in the Omdurman women’s prison. Al Manar had been running projects to provide nutritional support for over 400 severely malnourished children in the camps and for 128 children who are staying with their mothers in the Omdurman women’s prison. Al Manar was forced to close these projects earlier this month, when it was no longer granted access permits for these areas. UN agencies are following up to try to ascertain the reason for the closure of these projects and to advocate for them to be allowed to continue. [end]
Inflation in the prices for food has also had a disastrous effect on many families in Darfur, with even a minimal purchase of food beyond their limited means. Part of the inflation is related to transportation costs, as fuel prices—and transport fares—have recently doubled—reported by Radio Dabanga on June 27, 2013. Inflation is slowly destroying the Sudanese economy, and while regime figures might suggest a moderation of inflation, nearly all analysts think the rate remains well over 50 percent. One reflection of this is the Sudanese Pound hitting a record low against international currency on July 25, 2013—currency of the sort desperately needed for imports.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization also indicates that food is being priced out of the reach of many:
• In its latest July 2013 Crops Prospects and Food Situation report, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that the prices of domestic cereals (mainly sorghum and millet) remain at high levels since January 2013 in most monitored markets in Sudan. The FAO report says that “the current prices are just 10-20 per cent below the record high levels of 12 months earlier when production was halved by a severe drought.” Current high levels result mainly from increased production costs, such as labour and fertilisers, high inflation rates, and increased informal exports to neighbouring countries (especially to South Sudan), the report states. ”Prices of wheat, consumed mainly in urban areas and mostly sourced from the international market, are at record high levels,” the report continues, explaining that the surge in prices started in mid-2012 mainly due to high inflation, limited foreign currency reserves and the devaluation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG). (OCHA Weekly Bulletin, Issue #30, 28 July 2013)
In fact, extremely high inflation is part of the economic implosion brought on by the ill-considered and self-serving policies of NIF/NCP officials. Gross mismanagement of the agricultural sector, exporting food when Sudan’s population is so obviously in need, selling farmland to Arab and Asian concerns as a way to generate wealth for themselves—and most consequentially, engaging in profligate military expenditures that have accompanied the disastrous wars that this regime has either begun or continued.
In a ground-breaking work of journalism, the New York Times reported five years ago from Khartoum on how the regime’s policies exacerbate domestic food shortages and malnutrition. Correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman filed from Ed Damer (north of Khartoum) a dispatch highlighting just how perverse national agricultural policy has become. Noting that Sudan “receives a billion pounds of free food from international [aid] donors, [even as it] is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries,” Gettleman asked, “why is a country that exports so many of its own crops receiving more free food than anywhere else in the world, especially when the Sudanese government is blamed for creating the crisis [in Darfur] in the first place?”
An excellent question, which five years later the international community refuses to ask with sufficient honesty or resolve for changes.
The details of this ghastly perversion of priorities are revealing of how ruthlessly the regime has arrogated to itself all opportunities for significant economic gain:
[Sudan] is already growing wheat for Saudi Arabia, sorghum for camels in the United Arab Emirates and vine-ripened tomatoes for the Jordanian Army. Now the government is plowing $5 billion into new agribusiness projects, many of them to produce food for export.
Take sorghum, a staple of the Sudanese diet, typically eaten in flat, spongy bread. Last year, the United States government, as part of its response to the emergency in Darfur, shipped in 283,000 tons of sorghum, at high cost, from as far away as Houston. Oddly enough, that is about the same amount that Sudan exported, according to United Nations officials. This year, Sudanese companies, including many that are linked to the government in Khartoum, are on track to ship out twice that amount, even as the United Nations is being forced to cut rations to Darfur. (New York Times, 10 August 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/world/africa/10sudan.html)
There is no fathoming the arrogance of such greed.
III. Water and Sanitation
(See also Appendix VIII, “Water and Sanitation,” http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4161)
Critical to any successful humanitarian operation in arid Darfur is the provision of adequate water, and at the same time adequate provision of sanitary facilities, including latrines. As with all other spheres of humanitarian assistance, “wat/san” is deeply compromised in Darfur and in many places wholly inadequate, despite the courageous efforts of organizations such as Oxfam America. The water crisis extends from Darfur to the largely invisible refugee camps in eastern Chad, as Radio Dabanga recently reported:
• Sudanese refugees in camp Djabal in eastern Chad are suffering an “acute drinking water crisis” as the only water engine at the camp is said to have broken down. Sources say that “the lives of 19,500 people are threatened” as a result. They explained to Radio Dabanga that organisations working on the field providing water could not repair the problems with the water pumps due to lack of technicians. Refugees are calling upon organisations to expedite the repair of the pumps and install an existing reserve engine to avoid a similar situation in the future. (Water scarcity threatens lives of 19,500 Sudanese refugees, Radio Dabanga, Djabal refugee camp, eastern Chad, 13 August 2013)
• [Sheikh Bakhit Hamid of Kalma camp] highlighted the emergence of 15 cases of swelling in the legs and in the spinal cord among the elderly. “They have had not been examined by doctors to find the cause of the disease, but we are sure it’s due to the breeding of flies,” he said. “10,000 displaced people have to share just 100 family latrines, so the children often relieve themselves in the open, which does not help.” Hamid expressed the hope that relief organisations will resume their work as soon as possible to relieve the pressure on the displaced. (Radio Dabanga, Kalma camp/Nyala, 18 July 2013)
This translates into one hundred families sharing a single latrine—a formula for hygiene disaster.
The FEWS NET report for April – September 2013 emphasizes the lack of water as well as food:
• According to an inter-agency assessment conducted from 19-23 June, an estimated 5,200 people displaced from Muhajeria town who are taking refuge in Yassin (2,060 people), Selea (1,246 people) and Abu Hadid (1,927 people) are in need of water, health, education, shelter and non-food relief supplies and agriculture assistance. Most of the displaced people have integrated into the host community, placing increased pressure on existing services. Findings showed that there are chronic water shortages in Selea and Yassin towns, with animals sharing the same water sources as the displaced and host communities. In Abu Hadid, there is no water yard and people walk up to 15km to reach the nearest water source. [end]
Often the problem is that equipment and water sources are beginning to deteriorate or break down altogether. The OCHA Weekly Bulletin #22 of June 2 reports from West Darfur:
• Overall, of 126 boreholes drilled in the nine camps, 36 have been decommissioned due to water quality problems and 90 have hand pumps installed of which 56 are working and 34 need repair. UNICEF and WES have already started a rapid response mechanism on repairing the hand pumps. Many IDPs have been living in these camps for almost seven years and the Water/Sanitation/Hygiene Sector is working on an exit strategy to handover operation and maintenance to the communities to reduce dependency on aid. [end]
It is not clear how an “exit strategy” that consists of handing over increasingly decrepit resources to the regime is a long-term solution, or even an adequate response to the current crisis. Indeed, a May 2013 report from Radio Dabanga suggests all too clearly what will happen when international NGOs are forced to leave:
• Displaced persons at six camps in Sirba locality of West Darfur are experiencing a severe water crisis as a result the breakdown of water pumps. This situation has existed for three months, but high temperatures have caused a sharp deterioration over the past few days. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the Kendebe camp’s residents have to fetch drinking water from valleys which are between 3km and 5km away. The witness points out that women who collect water are often vulnerable to being raped by militias. They said the local administrators asked the displaced to pay SDG 50,000 ($11,300) to resolve the problem, which was caused when NGOs were “expelled from the area.” (Severe water crisis’ at six camps in West Darfur, Radio Dabanga, Sirba, West Darfur, 7 May 2013)
Fuel shortages are now often the source of inadequate water supplies (again, the price of fuel has doubled in Darfur in recent months):
• The displaced residents of the three Tawila camps of North Darfur are experiencing a scarcity of fuel especially diesel. The knock-on effect is a lack of drinking water and rising prices. Tawila camps’ residents told Radio Dabanga on Friday that the diesel shortage has caused the water stations in the region to grind to a complete halt. The price of a barrel of water has risen to SDG 8 ($1.80). This has a further negative effect on livestock and vegetable farms that are now threatened by drought unless diesel reaches the camp from El Fasher, the state capital. In addition to these shortages, there is dire and urgent need for plastic sheeting due to the approaching rainy season. Residents have appealed to the state and local authorities to speed-up the provision of diesel and to the humanitarian organisations to provide aid urgently. (Fuel shortage halts water pumps in Tawila, North Darfur, Radio Dabanga, Tawila, 18 May 2013)
• The sheikhs of camp El Salam, also in Nyala, have warned of “the spread of a health disaster at the camp” if the authorities do not intervene. Sheikh Mahjoub Adam Tabaldiya explained to Radio Dabanga that “the rainfall has created large puddles of standing water which result in the breeding of flies, mosquitoes and other insects.” He warned that if the authorities do not spray, will lead to the spread of diseases. “Many displaced people are now suffering from diarrhoea and malaria,” he said, appealing to the health authorities to intervene by spraying the water pools and providing treatment for the patients. (Radio Dabanga, Nyala, 5 July 2013)
These warnings were coming even earlier, and in the event have proved all too well-founded as floods have ravaged much of Sudan. The insubstantial dwellings in IDP camps are often completely inadequate to withstand torrents of floodwater during the rainy season. Many camps are poorly located for protection from floods: the immense Kalma camp, for example is located in a shallow declivity near Nyala. The results were both predictable—and predicted:
• The arrival of the rainy season has advanced the spread of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, urinary retention and conjunctivitis in Kalma camp near to Nyala, capital of South Darfur. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Organisation [sic—the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the organization meant; IRC was expelled from Darfur by Khartoum in March 2009] has warned that a shortage of medicine is exacerbating the situation. Dr Saleh Ahmed Ali who works for the IRC [sic] in Kalma camp told Radio Dabanga that the spread of these diseases is a result of the deteriorating environmental situation. Especially children are vulnerable, with about 200 visiting the hospital each day. “Cases of diarrhoea, flu, and intestinal pain are the most prevalent,” Dr Saleh said. “In the past we had reasonable quantities of medicine for the camp, but with the increasing number of new arrivals, we have now completely run out.” (Rain brings new health fears for displaced in Darfur camps, Radio Dabanga, Nyala, 26 June 2013)
Darfur is set to become the “perfect storm” of human suffering, deprivation, and death. A number of the dispatches here have made explicit the connections to mortality, which if unquantified in deference to Khartoum’s wishes, is clearly growing at an ominous rate.
• Torrential rains that fell from 4am to 8pm on Wednesday caused a flood that destroyed more than 500 homes at Dreige camp for the displaced near Nyala, capital of South Darfur. Youth representative told Radio Dabanga that in addition to the rain itself, floodwaters rushed into the camp from the direction of Jebel Nyala. “Hundreds of displaced people are now living in the open without shelter or food,” the youth leader said. The floods have also left dozens of pools of water behind.” He said that “a Scottish organisation” promised to provide landfills and to open a drainage canal in the camp, but as yet, nothing has been done. “This meant that the floods could simply spread through the camp, leaving large puddles everywhere.” (500 homes destroyed by flood in South Darfur camp for displaced, Radio Dabanga, Dreige camp, Nyala area, 19 July 2013)
Vulnerabilities of the Displaced
Focusing here on only some features of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, it is easy to forget that those who have been displaced, and many who have not, are extraordinarily vulnerable in ways not captured by the ordinary metrics of humanitarian assessment. We know that tens of thousands of women and girls have been raped—but we don’t know how many tens of thousands, and are likely never to have an adequately informed estimate (see “RAPE AS A CONTINUING WEAPON OF WAR IN DARFUR: Reports, bibliography of studies, a compendium of incidents,” 4 March 2012, http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2884).
We know that all Darfuris are now subject to brutal and rapacious extortion schemes, in the camps and on the roads:
• Displaced civilians on their way to Dereige camp in South Darfur were attacked by an unidentified armed group on 16 May, according to UK-based advocacy group the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO). In a statement, SUDO UK says members of the armed gang threatened to kill their civilian hostages unless a 6,000 Sudanese pound ransom was paid. The group were en route from Muhajriyia to the South Darfur capital, Nyala, when the incident occurred…. ”In addition, the rainy season is just a month away and those who have [been] displaced will not be able to cultivate [crops]. This will result in a very large food gap and serious shortages,” the statement added. (IDPs attacked in South Darfur en route to Dereige camp, Radio Dabanga, Nyala area, 20 may 2013)
• Armed militiamen have threatened to kill a displaced person from Sirba camp in West Darfur, or to invade and plunder the market, unless the displaced pay them SDG20,000 ($4,500) compensation for an injured camel. A spokesman for the Sirba displaced, Mohamed Yahiya, told Radio Dabanga that the pro-government militiamen found one of their camels with a broken leg. “They then demanded the compensation. The Sheikh of the displaced offered to pay them SDG3,000 ($680) but they refused, threatening to kill one of the displaced, or invade and loot the market, unless the full SDG20,000 is forthcoming.” (Injured camel sparks militia-displaced stand-off in West Darfur, Radio Dabanga, Sirba camp, West Darfur, 8 August 2013)
There is no protection for these people. Certainly not the UN/African Union “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). It has repeatedly proved itself unable to protect civilians or humanitarians, and there are suspicions on the part of many that this reflects a pro-Khartoum bias as well as incompetence for this difficult mission:
Displaced people in the Darfur camps say that the lack of UNAMID patrols has contributed to the increased number of attacks by militias. Some camps reported that they only see a UNAMID patrol once a month on average, while others “have not seen a patrol for a long time.” According to Hussein Abu Sharati, spokesman for the Association of Displaced Persons and Refugees of Darfur, UNAMID night patrols around the camps stalled in 2010 during the Doha negotiations “under the pretext of a lack of vehicles.” Speaking from camp Kalma near Nyala on Wednesday, Abu Sharati told Radio Dabanga that his association has met with UNAMID “without finding any satisfactory answers, as it claims there were shortages of vehicles and movement, but we demand the mission resume the night patrols.” (Darfur displaced call for resumption of UNAMID patrols, Radio Dabanga, Darfur, 27 June 2013)
More revealingly, in another humiliation of this UN-authorized force, less than a month after the tragic murder of seven Tanzanian peacekeepers by Khartoum-allied militias near Khor Abeche, vehicles were seized from UNAMID in the major town of Ed Daein (formerly South Darfur). Radio Dabanga reported (Ed Daein, 13 August 2013):
A UNAMID convoy was attacked at the local market of the East Darfur capital of Ed Daein on Monday afternoon. Different sources claim that one peacekeeper was critically injured and that vehicles belonging to the Mission were seized. UNAMID affirms “none of the peacekeepers were injured….” [But] local sources from Ed Daein who spoke to Radio Dabanga, nevertheless, assured that one peacekeeper was seriously injured in the attack and that he was taken to a hospital for treatment. “Militias attacked the UNAMID convoy consisting of six double-cab vehicles and one armoured vehicle. They were attacked inside Ed Daein when they went to the market,” an eyewitness said. (UNAMID convoy attacked in Ed Daein, East Darfur—vehicles seized)
This attack on an apparently impotent UNAMID convoy comes exactly a month after UN head of peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous declared that “UNAMID has the inherent robustness to handle the situation on the ground” in Darfur (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], July 13, 2013). This has repeatedly proved untrue, just as it was untrue when a year ago Ladsous declared that security conditions “on the ground [in Darfur]” would permit a drawdown of UNAMID forces.
The people of Darfur receive neither the humanitarian assistance they so desperately need nor honesty about the inadequacy of the protection force that serves as international fig-leaf to obscure their desperate insecurity. This fig-leaf will be harder to hold in place given the recently announcement by Nigeria that it will withdraw up to two battalions of its troops—among the best in UNAMID—in the near future (Reuters [Abuja], 19 July 2013).
Who is to blame?
Those responsible for allowing Darfur to suffer so greatly, and for so long—and to approach the very edge of complete catastrophe—are many, but they are identifiable.
• The U.S. “de-coupled” Darfur from bilateral discussion around the issue that matters most to Khartoum, viz. removal from the State Department list of those providing state support to terrorists. No high-level diplomatic presence has defined U.S. engagement since the disastrous tenure of former U.S. special envoy Scott Gration. Like so many, Obama administration officials are content with the pretense that the Doha Document for Peace (DDPD) is a viable basis for peace negotiations. It is not, as has been made abundantly clear by Darfuri civil society and significant rebel groups.
• Officials of the African Union, including those serving as Joint Special Representative to UNAMID, have been deeply culpable. These include Rodolphe Adada, the incompetent former Special Joint Representative to UNAMID, who declared with breathtaking arrogance in August 2009,
“I have achieved results” in Darfur. “There is no more fighting proper on the ground.” “Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur. Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur—a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses.”
Adada’s successor, Ibrahim Gambari, was even more disgracefully duplicitous, declaring on the basis of conspicuously “cooked” statistics:
“Our figures have shown that the number of armed attacks in all three Darfur states has fallen by as much as 70 percent over the past three years, which has resulted in more displaced people returning to their homes. UNAMID has significantly stabilized the situation in Darfur” (September 2011).
On the occasion of his retirement as UNAMID JSR, Gambari declared in September 2012: “I am gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the objectives I set out to meet have largely been met.” These “objectives” obviously did not include ending Khartoum’s murderous assault on UNAMID personnel, or improving the disastrously poor morale of the mission. Nor did it include securing unfettered access per the February 2008 Status of Forces Agreement—or the consistent investigation of atrocities reported, or aerial bombardment of civilian targets; nor did it included remotely adequate protection of civilians and humanitarians, the primary mandate of UNAMID. Gambari was and is a self-serving and arrogant UN careerist.
The AU’s Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, attempted to seize diplomatic control of Darfur negotiations in 2009, producing a “roadmap for peace” that led nowhere, and gained no traction. The “African Union High-Level Implementation Panel” that was to have implemented the plan for peace in Darfur instead kept its pompous name but moved on to other issues in greater Sudan, including Abyei, where Mbeki again performed disastrously. Most conspicuously, he has yet to secure from Khartoum a humanitarian access agreement for the large and deeply imperiled civilian populations in rebel-held regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile—or even to make this a high priority. He refuses to condemn in even vaguely appropriate terms the aerial campaign of annihilation presently being conducted by the SAF, and is widely perceived by South Sudanese officials as biased toward Khartoum.
Certainly the African Union Peace and Security Council has been much at fault in the security debacle in Darfur, insisting on capabilities in this inaugural peacekeeping mission that it simply did not and does not have. The AU PSC has also been shamefully silent on the atrocities committed overwhelmingly by Khartoum and its militia proxies in Darfur, and has said virtually nothing about the bombing attacks chronicled above.
The PSC “renews its appeal to the international community not to relent in its support to the search for durable peace and stability in Darfur, including support for timely implementation of DDPD provisions,” said the statement released on Friday. The regional body further stressed the need for international support to create an environment conducive for economic recovery and development in Darfur. It further urged “international partners to engage with the Government of Sudan on the matter of debt relief.” (Sudan Tribune, 19 July 2013)
Here we enter the realm of grotesque diplomatic farce: the AU PSC appears to be seriously suggesting that Khartoum be rewarded for ongoing genocidal destruction in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur—as well as continued de facto military seizure of Abyei, the key to a stable North/South peace agreement. The idea that Khartoum, having grossly mismanaged the Sudanese economy for more than two decades, has led the country into an economic disaster, and has all along engaged in profligate military expenditures, as well as created national budgets that consistently spend well over half of revenues received on security and military forces—that such a regime should be considered by any in the international an appropriate candidate for “debt relief” is simply stupefying, even as it is entirely in character with the leadership of the AU.
• The UN responsibility must be shared between the Secretariat, the Security Council, and the humanitarian agencies of the UN. Kofi Annan failed in 2004 to live up to his commitment to push for humanitarian intervention in the event that large-scale, ethnically-targeted atrocities did not cease. The occasion for this promise was the April 2004 commemoration of the Rwandan genocide that had begun ten years earlier. In September 2006 Annan decided that even the robust peace support operation carefully planned and proposed by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations could not deploy without Khartoum’s permission, which was of course denied. The humanitarian access agreement Annan signed in Khartoum (July 2004) has meant little over the past nine years, and the “demand” of UN Security Council Resolution 1556—that Khartoum disarm and bring to justice the Janjaweed—received no energetic support from Annan, and obviously no compliance by the NIF/NCP regime.
Ban Ki-moon, despite coming into office promising to make Darfur a “signature” issue, has failed in just about every way imaginable. He has been deeply intimidated by Khartoum, has repeatedly shown himself to be “spineless” (a characterization offered by former senior UN officials), and refuses to speak honestly about the realities of greater Sudan, whether it be the deliberate bombing of civilians and humanitarians or the epidemic of rape in Darfur. Two of Ban’s four reports on Darfur/UNAMID in 2012 made no mention at all of rape, and the other two mentioned it only in passing. When a UN investigative team found evidence of “ethnic cleansing” following Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei (May 2011), Ban intruded himself by declaring it was “much too soon” to be speaking of “ethnic cleansing”—on the basis of no first-hand knowledge. He has never forthrightly acknowledged that what occurred in Abyei, and what continues to occur in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, is ethnically-targeted displacement and destruction.
UN humanitarian officials have varied in effectiveness. Jan Egeland was heroic in the early years of the Darfur genocide, but was succeeded by a much more cautious John Holmes and now by Valerie Amos, a person given to politic, not to say disingenuous representations of the situation in Sudan and Darfur in particular. She expressed, for example, a wholly untenable skepticism in June and July 2011 about the realities of what were clearly crimes against humanity in Kadugli and elsewhere in South Kordofan, about and Khartoum’s campaign of annihilation in the Nuba Mountains. This and other accommodations of Khartoum’s sensitivities around various issues badly undermine the integrity of UN agencies.
Among Darfur issues, she has helped perpetuate the notion that “1.4 million” is an adequate number to represent displacement in Darfur (“with 1.4 million still living in camps”). She also celebrated as a success the Darfur Donors Conference held in Doha this past spring:
We need to build stronger bridges between humanitarian and development work. In this regard, I welcome the Darfur Donors Conference which recently saw US$ 3.6 billion in pledges for Darfur, including a commitment of US$ 2.6 billion from the Government of Sudan. (Statement of the Under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, May 23, 2013)
But as Amos well knows, Khartoum’s commitment of resources to humanitarian and development work is utterly worthless, especially in the impossibly constrained fiscal circumstances in which all financial decisions are now made (notably, the regime has not begun to live up to previous financial commitments to Darfur). And even the $1 billion from “other donors” is not only far below the targeted amount, but hardly comes in the form of firm commitments. Most international actors of consequence, besides expedient host Qatar, effectively simply sat out the conference. Further, the “stronger bridge between humanitarian and development work” that Amos mentions has become simply code for approval, along with other international partners, of Khartoum’s “New Strategy for Darfur.” This strategy, in the midst of unspeakable violence and desperate need, is painfully premature; in Khartoum’s mind, it is simply the plan by which humanitarian INGOs can be made to leave Darfur, and returns compelled without international witnesses. What we are seeing now in the way of attacks on displaced African populations seeking to return to their farmlands is entirely consistent with the “New Strategy.”
Another senior UN humanitarian official also brings disgrace to the UN as a world body. Georg Charpentier, former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, oversaw increasing restriction on the dissemination of critically important data and information concerning key humanitarian issues. Even more outrageously, he decided that he would give Khartoum’s officials a chance to decide what he would say publicly (this was confirmed to me at the time by a highly informed, well-placed journalist based in Khartoum). This censorship extended to Charpentier’s refusal to speak out about Khartoum’s summer 2010 expulsion of senior officials from the (intergovernmental) International Organization for Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commission for Refugees, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (the latter for circulating a petition concerning world hunger). Charpentier also refused to offer meaningful responses to questions from reporters in the region.
Furthermore, Charpentier was part of the effort to diminish the realities of violence and humanitarian need in Darfur. He declared in January 2011 that, ”We are seeing a ‘trend of decreasing overall violent incidents in Darfur.’” The very same month, Human Rights Watch found: “Sudanese government and rebel attacks on civilians in Darfur have dramatically increased in recent weeks without signs of abating, Human Rights Watch said today …. ’While the international community remains focused on South Sudan, the situation in Darfur has sharply deteriorated,’ said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.’”
But most shockingly Charpentier simply lied about humanitarian access in Darfur: “‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting]” (January 7, 2011). This claim was refuted, publicly and privately, by countless UN and INGO humanitarians; but the damage had been done and Khartoum had what it needed. There has been no more perverse or destructive example of mendacity coming from outside the Khartoum regime.
And the mendacity and disingenuousness continue. It is too early to judge the tenure of newly appointed Joint Special Representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas, but there are already causes for concern. Chambas, for example, offers a partial truth—
Chambas said the nature of the disputes—mainly competition for land, water and mineral rights—made it hard to tell who was on which side as police and militia also had ethnic affiliations (AFP, August 13, 2013)—
but takes no cognizance of the more important truth articulated in U.S. Senate testimony by Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch:
Inter-ethnic fighting in Darfur today should be understood as a consequence of Sudan’s support for certain ethnic groups to fight alongside the government, the so-called “Janjaweed” militia, and of failing to rein them in, disarm them, or provide any accountability for past serious crimes.
There are indeed highly disturbing reports of ethnic violence, including inter-Arab fighting, as well as longstanding and still extensive violence by Arab groups against non-Arab or African tribal groups (from which the rebels largely come). Particularly notable recently is the fighting between the Salamat and Misseriya in West Darfur, the Rizeigat and the Ma’alia in eastern Darfur, as well as the lesser reported conflict between the African Gimr tribe and the Arab Beni Halba. Fighting has also been reported between the Arab Targam and the primarily (African) Fur members of the Sudan Liberation Army of Abdel Wahid el-Nur. Conflict between the Beni Hussein and Northern Rizeigat is also far from fully concluded. Many hundreds, likely thousands, have been killed in these conflicts and the displacement (more than 100,000 people) they have generated over the past year. Darfur has been left to fester and seethe with insecurity for far too long for ethnic tensions not to have fertile ground in which to grow.
(See Appendix IX, “Recent Tribal and Ethnic Conflict in Darfur,” http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4161)
Unless the international community places responsibility squarely where it belongs, Khartoum will feel as though it has achieved a strategic victory. Confessions of confusion and uncertainty such as that by SJR Chambas are not helpful, in part because while his account has at least some validity, it ultimately misrepresents an essential truth.
The list of those culpable in the prolongation of suffering and destruction in Darfur is of course much longer—and the absence of help from organizations such as the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference has made for gratuitous difficulties in engaging Khartoum. China and Russia are permanent obstacles on the UN Security Council. But there are too few signs elsewhere of honesty, conviction, and courage—all critical elements of any meaningful compassion at this late hour for the people of Darfur.