December 2022 | ANNEX 4
Nancy Reeves, Editor and Funding Advisor; Julie Darcq, Online Campaign Coordinator
High levels of malnutrition with a growing risk of Famine
With additional funding, our project would be able to fund additional food purchases. Malnutrition has historically been extremely high in North Darfur (see below), and since the beginning of this year’s agricultural season, famine is is a word increasingly deployed. July’s update included the coordinating counselor long and detailed report on conditions in Zamzam. Food security in most of Sudan has plummeted recently, even as food prices have skyrocketed. Inflation/hyper-inflation has long been a severely debilitating feature of the Sudanese economy, a function of years of gross economic mismanagement: previously by the al-Bashir regime, currently by the al-Burhan/Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemeti”) junta in Khartoum. But the effects of the Russian shutdown of Ukraine’s grain exports have quickly rippled through the world economy, crushingly in some places. And no place faces a grimmer malnutrition crisis than Darfur.
As the coordinating counselor has made repeatedly clear in her overviews, insecurity and the threat of violence in Darfur—particularly North Darfur and West Darfur—have created a massive new shock to the food supply. The year’s agricultural season has largely failed, this after the failure of last year’s harvest because of violence by unchecked Arab militia forces, who in many cases have been armed by either the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) or Hemeti’s largely untrained, undisciplined, and ruthless militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF has been authoritatively linked to recent, serious violence against non-Arab civilians in Darfur—and from 2013 through 2019 was the primary instrument of Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions in Darfur.
The farming season failed because non-Arab farmers could not work their farms—or the farms of others for wages. Food, already scarce and wildly expensive will become even more scarce and expensive—and serious starvation will begin (we have already seen too many cases of starvation in Darfur in recent months.
I discussed at length in my June update the malnutrition statistics that are currently available; they are woefully inadequate, even as the available data show terrifyingly high levels of Acute Malnutrition (usually framed in terms of Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition, or SAM). Children under five who experience SAM may have mortality rates as high as 40%, particularly if there is no supplementary feeding or medical facility available. And even on recovery, children who have experienced SAM are at much greater risk for a range of diseases. SAM is one of the five greatest causes of childhood mortality, especially when co-morbidities are present.
The UN food program currently provides a single minimum daily caloric meal for only about 10% of the population in need in Zamzam. This is primarily a function of gross underestimating of the camp population (see the Annex on the character of Zamzam as an IDP camp). Large sections of the populations in West and North Darfur (as well as other parts of Sudan) have recently been reported to be in a state of “Crisis/Emergency Food Insecurity
Political Assessment by the Coordinating Counselor of Team Zamzam
The agricultural season in North Darfur continues to be threatened by failure due to the refusal of the regional and state governments to secure farmers from Janjaweed attacks.
The people of North Darfur state want urgent measures to be taken to secure the current agricultural season; otherwise famine and more displacement will be the inevitable consequences. The general security situation in Darfur, and particularly in the North Darfur State, has again become dangerously volatile and could explode at any time. And the people of the state have begun to worry whether there will ever be security guarantees from the government for this year’s agricultural season: will people be able to plant and harvest their crops without fear? The rainy season [has now ended].
Recently, many localities in North Darfur have sent committees of farmers to El Fasher to make inquiries of the governor’s office and the state: will the government provide assurances and safety for the agricultural season so that people can return to farming? But various committees said the officials in the governor’s office refused outright even to meet with these delegates; they have found it impossible even to inform the governor’s office about what is happening.
Officials at the level of the overall governor’s office [Minni Minawi is regional governor of Darfur] and the office of North Darfur’s governor have refused to meet with these delegated committees, whose aim is to gain an understanding of what the government and its officials will provide. With this deliberate procrastination on the part of the regional Government (for Darfur) and the government of North Darfur State, it seems certain that the agricultural season this year will fail for the second year in a row. And if the agricultural season fails because the government refuses to provide security, the result for the region will be much greater displacement and the potential for severe famine.
Notably, on July 4 in El Fasher, at the graduation ceremony for one element of the government’s armed forces, the “Daqo Jowa” battalion, officials were led by the vice-chairman of coup d’état government, Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemeti”). Hemeti did not even mention securing the agricultural season, while before the graduation there had been much talk about the mission of this force. Supposedly upon its graduation the battalion would be deployed to secure the agricultural season in the state; now it appears that they have walked away from these commitments. All the forces who graduated on 4th July were immediately given a month of leave to return to their families. By the time they return, the agricultural season will have ended without timely crop planting.
“The planting period is almost over,” one of the farmers said. The people of the state ask the government: will there be an agricultural season this year or not? Because if there is no agriculture, the citizens will migrate, and the state will become vacant for the government and its Janjaweed allies. They in turn are all too eager to snatch up what arable and pasturable land is left behind.
Without cultivation during this current agricultural season, the crops will fail. The government’s refusal to provide security for farmers in the face of ongoing Janjaweed aggression ensures that the agricultural season will fail and that a large wave of displacement will occur in North Darfur.
The people of North Darfur are currently concentrated in the only six gathering areas that remain: Shangil Tobaya, Zamzam, Kebkabiya, Abu Zureika, Korma, and Tawila. Further to the north, Kutum and Dar Zaghawa have no inhabitants because the war has pushed of most its inhabitants to flee for safety to refugee camps in eastern Chad. The other eighteen localities in the state are largely without inhabited villages: a great many have been totally abandoned. Some of the localities in the east of the state are inhabited, such as Mellit, Kuma, Al-Malah, Al-Tuwaisha, Umm Kadada, Al-Lait Jar Al-Nabi, and Dar Al-Salaam. But the rest of the localities in North Darfur have no residents because they have been displaced to IDP camps.
All of Sudan is suffering, and this suffering seems destined to become much worse in the coming months, especially as acute food shortages are being exacerbated by the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s grain exports. The UN World Food Program reported from Khartoum this month:
A record 15 million people in Sudan—one-third of the population—are currently facing acute food insecurity, the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) released by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) shows…. By [September], up to 40% of the population [of 45 million], or around 18 million people, may slip into food insecurity.
But this is for Sudan as a whole; in Darfur, and especially in the camps for displaced persons, conditions are already much worse.
In Zamzam IDP camp, where our project is focused, the coordinating counselor of Team Zamzam reports this month:
Malnutrition in the Darfur camps has caused the daily death of many children from starvation. Malnutrition began to increase dramatically in 2009, when the former regime deliberately expelled many international relief organizations from Darfur. The ensuing humanitarian crisis has worsened in recent years as the authoritarian al-Bashir regime tried aggressively to dismantle the camps by means of starvation.
This deliberate, aggressive policy directed against the camps pursued by the former regime had the assistance of the governor of North Darfur state at the time, Othman Kiber. This policy of attempting to dismantle the IDP camps has resulted in continuing economic difficulties for the vast majority of IDP’s. The policies also generated additional difficulties in Darfuri society, creating severe psychological hardships in the lives of millions. Countless displaced persons have had their names removed from lists for humanitarian assistance.
Daily starvation and malnutrition are not a new thing for camp residents, especially the people of Zamzam, who long ago lost their hopes and confidence in the international community. But now the situation is becoming increasingly difficult: the minimum food requirement of one daily meal is becoming increasingly scarce for the more than 90% of the population whose lives used to depend on agriculture.
Recent History of Food Insecurity and Malnutrition in Sudan (Eric)
I believe it is important to see the long-term profile of malnutrition in Darfur, a task made easier by the leaking of an unpublished UNICEF report (circulated internally, June 2014, but never formally published because of UNICEF’s deference to the sensibilities of the al-Bashir regime). A scan of the leaked document was published by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times on September 5, 2014. Among the many shocking results of the UNICEF survey of malnutrition in Sudan are these data (the language is UNICEF’s):
Acute malnutrition rates for children in Sudan among the highest in the world:
North Darfur: 28 percent acute malnutrition among children
South Darfur: 18 percent acute malnutrition among children
East Darfur: 15 percent acute malnutrition among children
South Darfur: 13 percent acute malnutrition among children
West Darfur: 8 percent acute malnutrition among children
I have highlighted the figure for North Darfur, location of Zamzam IDP camp. In 2014, UNICEF reported that 28% of all children in North Darfur suffered from “acute malnutrition.” Many would die as malnutrition worsened or opportunistic diseases took their toll among these weakened children. The UNICEF figures for “chronic malnutrition among the children of North Darfur” at the time was 35%—over one third of the state’s population of children. And the situation has deteriorated significantly over the past eight years—and the last two in particular.
Also acutely vulnerable to the effects of food insecurity, scarcity, and cost in Zamzam are: the very elderly; the blind and the paraplegic; widows with children (and often the children of other displaced families killed in the violence); the mentally ill, including those suffering from acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. One of the particular skills the counselors bring to the distribution of supplies is an ability to identify and provide for the very most needy. Coupled with their extraordinary efficiency when purchasing in local markets, and the labor provided by the two male members of Team Zamzam, the project’s efforts over the past year saw more than 2,000 desperate families receive critically needed food aid, along with medical supplies.