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Darfur - overview

© UNICEF Sudan/2007/Georgina Cranston
A young girl plays with a skipping rope in a camp for internally displaced persons in West Darfur.

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 2008 alone, 310,000 people have been displaced, or newly displaced – bringing the current total of displacement to 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:

  • Access to clean water in 2007 stood at 76 per cent (Darfur Food Security and Nutrition Assessment 2007), while 3 million conflict-affected people had access to basic health services (UNICEF reports).
  • Under-five mortality rates have fallen over the last four years from 1.03 in 2004 to 0.67 in 2007 (Darfur Food Security and Nutrition Assessments 2004-2007).
  • Primary school enrolment has increased from 516,000 in 2006 to more than 976,000 in 2008 (UNICEF and Ministry of Education data).
  • Immunization campaigns continue to reach all targeted children, although often 'mop-up' efforts have to be made in areas inaccessible in initial attempts.

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.

© UNICEF Sudan/2006/Georgina Cranston
Eighteen month old Bahr Eldeen receives treatment for malnutrition at the UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding centre in Al Geneina Hospital, West Darfur.
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.

As of September 2008, 225 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked or stolen during the year, 32 convoys attacked, 144 humanitarian compounds broken into, and 11 humanitarian workers killed - all impacting on provision of vital services.† Attacks on its convoys have led WFP 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 means that 180,000 people in the state may not receive expected clean water supplies this year. Continued insecurity and restrictions on access affects the quality of services.

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.

This year's 'hunger gap', the period from June to August when communities’ coping mechanisms are weakest, was predicted to be especially difficult. Increased displacement is putting 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. Combined with the security concerns mentioned above, these factors could lead to worsening humanitarian conditions.

Although the nutritional situation has remained comparable to the same periods last year, with the exception of a few localised "spikes" in malnutrition in certain IDP camps, UNICEF has been pre-positioning therapeutic and supplementary foodstuff in feeding centres in high-risk areas as a precautionary measure. We have been monitoring the nutritional status of children, and have been logging the water table as part of efforts to prepare for the summer months.

† Data provided by UNOCHA, October 2008.





Related links

Darfur Nutrition Summary - May/June 2007 [PDF]

The following links are from a non-UNICEF web site:

Mia Farrow's 19 September OpEd from USA TODAY:
Darfur's need for help can be seen in refugees' eyes [PDF]

Mia Farrow's 25 July editorial in the Chicago Tribune:
World must not turn away from Darfur's desperation [PDF]

Martin Bell on BBC Newsnight:
Sudan's human catastrophe [see video in top right corner]

For journalists


15 March 2006:
UNICEF’s Representative in Sudan, Ted Chaiban, discusses the situation in Darfur and Southern Sudan.

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