Decision reference number: ECHO/SDN/BUD/2004/03000
1 - Rationale, needs and target population:
1.1. - Rationale:
Since late 2002, the security situation in the Greater Darfur Region of western Sudan has been steadily deteriorating and basically evolved from pocketed and relatively traditional tribal clashes and banditry into a more widespread situation of general insecurity affecting large segments of the population(1) in this vast and inhospitable region which has approximately the size of France. This development took place against a backdrop of desertification, increased competition between sedentary farming communities and nomadic groups over diminishing natural resources, political and socio-economic marginalization, in combination with a breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and proliferation of regional small arms trade.
Open warfare erupted in Darfur in early 2003, when the newly emerged Sudan Liberation Movement / Army (SLM/A) attacked Government of Sudan (GOS) forces. Not much later, another armed political group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), came to the forefront. Both groups stand for similar demands, i.a. an end to the region's marginalization, as well as improved protection for their communities from attacks by Arab nomadic groups. A further dimension was added to the conflict during the latter part of 2003 when militia groups known as 'Arab militia' or Janjaweed(2) were mobilised and started a wide spread campaign involving attacks on civilians and destruction of essential infrastructure (e.g. irrigation channels, water sources) and large scale looting of private household assets, as well as essential livestock and seed stocks (i.e. coping mechanisms) of indigenous communities of primarily non-Arab origin(3). The international community has over the past year on many occasions urged the GOS to protect the civilian population against the Janjaweed attacks.
Escalation of Janjaweed attacks and fighting between the GOS and the armed opposition led, especially since mid-December 2003 when ceasefire talks between the GOS and the rebel groups collapsed, to massive displacement among civilian populations.
According to the United Nations (UN)(4) and other sources, the impact of the conflict on civilians can be summarized as follows:
- It is clear that the conflict's related insecurity has affected most of the inhabited areas of Darfur;
- The conflict-affected population is estimated now in excess of 1 million people;
- The majority of the affected population are internally displaced (IDPs) primarily of non-Arab origin;
- In areas where IDPs congregate, the total number of displaced is at times double to quintuple that of permanent residents; thus residents are becoming increasingly affected by the crisis;
- Hundreds of towns, villages and other settlements have been burnt, looted and depopulated;
- More than 190,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad(5);
- Estimates of numbers of deaths related to the conflict vary from between 15,000 and 30,000.
Whilst the above facts led to the classification of Darfur as the largest newly emerged humanitarian crisis in the world, the humanitarian response in the Greater Darfur Region has been very limited so far. According to the international medical Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Médecins Sans Frontières, "relief operations throughout the region fall far short of the massive needs, and as currently designed will not succeed in preventing an entirely man-made famine from wiping out tens of thousands of lives throughout the region"(6).
This is partially related to the low response capacity and physical conditions on the ground, as well as continued violence and insecurity, though to a lesser degree than during the first months of this year.
The UN estimates that 90% of the assessed population in the Greater Darfur Region are currently accessible according the UN security standards, up from 61% from the UN previous reporting period(7). Despite this access improvement, government impediments of an administrative nature, continue making it difficult and sometimes impossible for humanitarian actors to react to needs in a timely, principled, impartial and meaningful manner.
(1) Population estimates range from 6.5 - 7.7 million inhabitants, divided over more than 60 different ethnic groups.
(2) Janjaweed can be translated as 'armed horsemen'.
(3) This included, according to human rights reports and accounts from affected communities, systematic rape of women and specific targeting of middle-aged men.
(4) i.a. Darfur Humanitarian Profile (UN, 1 June 2004) and 90-Day Humanitarian Action Plan for Darfur (UN, 28 June 2004).
(5) According to a recent ECHO field assessment.
(6) IRIN News. "SUDAN: Relief operations in Darfur still short of meeting needs - MSF". 21 June 2004
(7) Darfur Humanitarian Profile (UN, 1 June 2004)