The UN estimates that between 200,000-300,000 people have died in Darfur since the start of the current conflict in 2004.
Some 4.7 million people are currently directly affected by the conflict, out of a total population of around 6.2 million. In 2009 to date, more than 137,000 people have been displaced, or newly displaced – bringing the current total of displacement to an estimated 2.7 million †.
Half of those affected by the conflict are children; of these, nearly 700,000 (the under-five population) have grown up knowing nothing but the conflict.
Impact of humanitarian activities
The massive humanitarian operation in Darfur has helped stabilise the situation for many of the conflict-affected population:
Ongoing challenges to civilian populations
Against this background the underlying condition of women and children remains vulnerable. For the first time since 2004, global acute malnutrition rates in Darfur rose above the emergency threshold in 2007, reaching 16.1 per cent. Some IDP camps are reporting reductions in available water supply. There are continued reports of violence within camps for internally displaced persons, and attacks against civilians, including gender-based and sexual violence. An estimated 4,500 children are believed to be associated with armed forces and groups.
Threats to humanitarian programmes
The humanitarian community remains under intense pressure with continuing violence and rising numbers of attacks on humanitarian convoys of great concern.
During 2008, 277 humanitarian vehicles were hijacked or stolen (compared to 137 in 2007), 39 convoys attacked, 192 humanitarian compounds broken into, 11 humanitarian workers killed, 36 injured, 218 kidnapped, and 17 physically or sexually assaulted (compared to13 killed, 24 injured, 147 kidnapped and 59 physically or sexually assaulted in 2007) - all impacting on provision of vital services.† Attacks on its convoys led the UN World Food Programme to reduce its general food ration by 25 per cent, while the hijacking and theft of a UNICEF-supported drilling rig and equipment in North Darfur in March 2008 put the provision of clean water to some 180,000 people at risk. Continued insecurity and restrictions on access affects the quality of services.
So far in 2009, 59 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked or stolen, 13 humanitarian convoys have been ambushed, attacked or looted, there have been 92 break-ins, attacks or incidents of vandalism against humanitarian compounds, six humanitarian workers have been killed, 16 injured, 28 kidnapped or abducted, and 28 physically or sexually assaulted, while there have been 24 incidents of relocation by humanitarian actors, related to insecurity.
Without safe access to communities, aid agencies cannot guarantee sustained quality programmes on the ground, resorting instead to using windows of opportunity - for example, using helicopter missions to visit areas inaccessible by road - to deliver what they can, as quickly as they can.
Last year's 'hunger gap', the period from June to August when communities’ coping mechanisms are weakest, was predicted to be especially difficult. Increased displacement continues to place more strain on IDP camps and increasing pressure on the water table. In South Darfur, the 2007 cereal harvest was considerably lower than in 2006, contributing to an overall shortfall in cereal stocks in 2008. Combined with the security concerns mentioned above, these factors could lead to worsening humanitarian conditions.
Although during the 2008 'hunger gap' the nutritional situation remained comparable to the same periods in 2007, with the exception of a few localised "spikes" in malnutrition in certain IDP camps, UNICEF pre-positioned therapeutic and supplementary foodstuff in feeding centres in high-risk areas as a precautionary measure. It continually monitors the nutritional status of children, and has been logging the water table as part of efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the summer months.
† Data provided by UNOCHA, July 2009.
Three hours on the ground might just bring a lifetime of results ....
At the water pump she tentatively walks over to me, past the other boys and girls, and takes my hand....
Growing lemons and papaya in the middle of the desert ...