Situation Analysis Report: West Darfur, Sudan - HelpAge International and UNICEF Apr 2005

from HelpAge International
Published on 30 Apr 2005
1. Introduction
This study is the result of a five-week analysis of the situation in West Darfur and how it affects children and older people. The objective of the study is to gain an improved understanding of the community, its coping strategies for supporting separated children and older people, and what changes to these strategies that may have occurred as a result of the on-going conflict. Finally, recommendations for programmatic interventions are included.

HelpAge has worked in Sudan for over 20 years, but only began operating in West Darfur in July 2004. At present, HAI distributes non-food items to older people in camps, including Sisi and Krinding and advocates on behalf of older people. In Sisi, Krinding, Kerenik and Gokar, Older People's Committees (OPCs) have been established and OPCs are planned for Mornei and Riyadh. The OPCs are made up of representatives of older members of the community, both men and women, who monitor the condition of the more vulnerable older people, especially those who live alone. HelpAge has also initiated a project promoting fuel-efficient stoves, which can be easily made in the camps and 290 people have so far been trained in Sisi. The fuel-efficient stove projects have a protection element as well as ensuring that the use of firewood is maximised. There are additional benefits in that the amount of smoke is reduced and the fire itself is controlled, so that burning accidents, especially involving children, are minimised.

UNICEF works with other UN agencies, 39 NGOs and local authorities in the Darfur region to provide humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable population in the area. UNICEF's key programme interventions include Water and Sanitation, Health and Nutrition, Education, Child Protection and Relief and Shelter. For example, more than 263,000 children, between the ages of 6 and 13 years, have enrolled in schools through the construction of over 1,200 temporary classrooms and the rehabilitation of 68 permanent classrooms. In addition, 105,486 children in Darfur have been provided with psychosocial support through the establishment of child friendly spaces, which are safe places free from violence and conflict and meant for promoting the psychosocial well being of children and re-establishing a sense of normality in their lives. They offer an environment conducive for children who have been the victims of serious children's rights violations.

2. Methodology

Three locations within West Darfur were identified as focal points for the study: Mornei, Sisi and Gokar IDP camps, with Krinding as an alternative to Gokar in the event of Gokar being inaccessible for security reasons. (Table 1: IDP Populations -- WFP figures from 2004). In the event, it was decided to go to Krinding camp on the outskirts of Geneina, as UNSECOORD, the security personnel of the relief operations, would not give clearance to drive to Gokar.

Table 1: IDP Populations

Total Population
Children (under 15)
Older People (over 60)
Krinding I
Krinding II

Source: WFP (Registration date March/April/August 2004)

Each location was visited and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and semi-structured interviews (SSI) conducted. Each FGD comprised up to 20 people representing a cross-section of age, gender and ethnicity and the interviews were held with 10-20 older people and the children for whom they care. In practice, in certain locations, these numbers were difficult to maintain, especially as the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) and its representatives, had created a certain amount of expectation amongst the displaced people of Mornei. FGDs were, with the permission of the participants, tape recorded. The numbers were reduced to about 10, at least for the FGDs, in Sisi and Krinding, though again, in practice, once a gathering is noticed people will try and join it.

In addition, key stakeholders were consulted and these included local authorities, UN agencies and international NGOs and local committees, particularly Older Persons Committees, where these have been established.

Two Focus Group Discussions were held each morning and two interview sessions in the afternoon. The morning sessions were largely successful, but for the afternoon sessions some difficulties arose as early afternoon is set aside for market purposes and the mid-afternoon period becomes very hot and uncomfortable. Even later in the afternoon it was difficult to gather together the required interviewees, but finally, a mutually agreeable time was set and sessions were held as soon as afternoon prayers were over.

3. Constraints

Limiting factors in organising and conducting the study included:

Security - the main constraints to any operations in Darfur concern security. Travel between Geneina and Mornei is somewhat restricted due to the necessity of travelling in convoys of not less than three or four vehicles. Sisi lies along the same route and therefore the same restrictions apply.

HAC - the capacity of the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to support the international humanitarian community. HAC is often the first point of contact between INGOs and the IDPs and is, at least in theory, a partner in the international intervention. In Mornei, mainly due to the size of the camp (75,000 IDPs), it was necessary to seek their cooperation and assistance to organise the FGD and SSI groups. This assistance was channelled via the Omda of Mornei and the host and IDP sheikhs, most of whom, it appears, have been appointed by HAC and who, therefore, promote the agenda of HAC rather than representing the interests of the IDPs.

Focus Group Discussions -- FGDs were almost impossible to restrict to a manageable size in each location, but particularly in Mornei, where they were often primed beforehand by the sheikhs. Interviews in Mornei often became difficult to manage as the perception of the community, encouraged by HAC or the HAC representatives, was that vulnerable people in general were to be registered for distributions or support. The FGD in Hai al-Salaam 'C', Mornei, ended early after the participants complained that they were bored of talking and that the exercise was meaningless. The same meeting included a HAC representative, who at one point reminded the group to speak only on the issues about which he had instructed them. The FGD in Hai al-Imtidad al-Sharg 'A', Mornei, was disrupted by a HAC sheikh who tried to persuade the gathering that life in a camp as an IDP was better than life in a village and that he, for one, was going to stay in Mornei. Fortunately for the discussion, he decided to leave the gathering.

Limited infrastructure - the camps have few permanent buildings where discussions could be held, thus meetings tended to be fairly public making it difficult to prevent the groups becoming larger as time went on.

Reliance on translators - certainly, in Mornei the problem was magnified due to the fact that the IDPs come from a wide spectrum of tribes, speaking different local languages, and Arabic is by no means understood by all, particularly women and children. During one meeting in Mornei four different languages were represented, in addition to Arabic: Masalit, Fur, Tama and Daju'. Translation is also a skill, involving interpretation as much as a direct translation of words from one language into another and this skill is integral to conducting good research.

Local staff capacity - all INGOs working in West Darfur have similar problems as most national staff, especially those local to West Darfur, have little experience of working with INGOs and have had limited training in information gathering skills and using the tools required for effective research in displaced communities. Capacity building has been shortchanged by the immediacy of the emergency and the need for timely intervention.

Limited access to quantifiable data - population figures, for example, are, a year on from the first interventions by the international community, still little more than at best good estimates and at worst purely "guesstimates". WFP have been updating their registrations, which have improved their figures, but there remain wide diversities in the numbers of displaced peoples or of any specific groups, such as older carers, working children, rape victims or deaths.

4. Overview of the situation in West Darfur

According to the latest Humanitarian Profile available from the UN, there has been an increase in the IDP population in the whole of Darfur of 39% (about 17,800 people) since January 2005, bringing the total IDP population to 1.86 million, 38% (700,000) of whom are in West Darfur. The UN claims that, due to better registration and increased access, 88% of the total population is being accessed with relief at the moment.

5. Security and Protection

Over the past twelve months, the security situation in Darfur has not improved, despite condemnation by the international community and the UN. The government of Sudan has done little to disarm the militias and the IDP population still has very real fears that any proposed return to their homes cannot be achieved without their security being guaranteed. The police forces remain ineffective, and either collude with or ignore militia attacks on IDPs. Indeed, many of those recruited into the police in the last year come from the militias themselves, and the impunity with which the militias seem to be able to act is a result of this. The continuing presence, around and close to many of the camps, of the Janjaweed militias, who are constantly mentioned by the residents of the camps as being the cause of insecurity and the perpetrators of aggression, assaults and rape, can only be seen as threatening and a means of intimidation.

The African Union monitoring teams have too limited a mandate to be effective, and, except for reporting incidents and investigating reported rapes, there is little that they can do. However, although the AU teams have begun patrolling some firewood collection areas, IDPs have little confidence in their ability to help the security situation and even the physical presence of the AU makes little difference to their lives.

The collection of firewood has been identified as a major protection issue, which to some degree is being addressed by AU patrols, but also by HAI and other agencies through the training of trainers in the making of fuel-efficient stoves. The stoves are made from locally available materials and are a simple means of maximising the use of firewood and of reducing, at least a little, the frequency of having to seek further supplies and thereby exposing oneself to risk.

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