Are you confused about what’s going on in the Darfur region of Sudan? How about South Sudan? What’s the difference between the two?
Until 2011, they were one country. That year, following decades of civil war, the southern section seceded, becoming the world’s newest nation: South Sudan. Today, conflict continues to roil both countries. Here’s a short primer on this troubled region and what Oxfam is doing to help.
Conflict in Darfur, Sudan
Hot and dusty, Sudan is just under one-fifth the size of the US. On Sudan’s western border, next to Chad, sits the vast and impoverished region of Darfur, home to an estimated 7.5 million people—about 21 percent of the country’s total population of 35 million. A remote and increasingly parched place, Darfur remains cut off from Khartoum, the nation’s capital, 1,000 miles away. The single artery connecting the two—the West Salvation Road—has never been finished.
Early in 2003, armed groups launched a rebellion in Darfur claiming the region had suffered decades of political marginalization and economic neglect from successive national governments. The government responded with force, and the fighting quickly escalated.
“If there was one single wise person who said yes, we’ll maintain security, we could have averted the suffering now,” said El Fateh Osman, Oxfam’s country director in Sudan. “The government chose an aggressive military option. That option did not work.”
Armed militias, known as Janjaweed, began systematically attacking and destroying villages considered sympathetic to the rebels. In the six years that followed, Darfuris saw nearly 3,000 of their villages destroyed or damaged. In the first 10 years of the conflict, the UN estimated that 300,000 people lost their lives.
At the start of 2014, more than one million people were still living in displacement camps when a new surge in violence hit the region, forcing hundreds of thousands of Darfuris to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere—even in places where they lack access to food, water, and basic sanitation facilities.
Conflict has also broken out in the Sudan states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The fighting that erupted there in 2011 between rebel forces and the government has left many families in need of humanitarian assistance and new clashes have forced about 6,700 people from their homes.