Darfur: An Invisible Famine in the Making, Obscured by UN Refusal to Release Critical Malnutrition Data, 3 September 2014

By Eric Reeves

September 3, 2014 (SSNA) — UN agencies have been warning for months of dire, indeed critical food insecurity in Sudan. Typically, the UN finds it easier to speak about all of Sudan rather than single out Darfur, even though the indicators in Darfur are much grimmer. Reports from the beginning of the current rainy season, (which will run through September, traditionally the month of heaviest rains along with August) have grown steadily more ominous. And yet despite these warnings the UN refuses to release data and reports on Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), perhaps the single most important measure in assessing food insecurity (see my previous account of this refusal to release GAM data, Sudan Tribune, 11 February 2011; I received no response from the UN).

This refusal is of longstanding and reflects the UN’s deference to Khartoum‘s demand that publication, even internal promulgation, not occur. There are other subjects on which Khartoum’s sensitivities are accommodated (rape, for example, and collated mortality data). As a consequence these are never reported in useful form by the UN Secretary-General in his quarterly reports on Darfur and the UN/African Union "hybrid" mission in Darfur (UNAMID).This abject acquiescence is indefensible, but its existence has been confirmed to me repeatedly by journalists and humanitarian personnel.

So, what has the UN permitted itself to say about the massive food insecurity in Darfur and Sudan as whole?

 A statistical survey

Early in the current rainy season (May/June through September) Radio Dabanga reported on the assessment of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan (2 June 2014):

 The Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al Za’tari, confirmed in a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Sunday, that the UN and its partners have received so far in 2014 only 33 percent of the $995 million needed to meet the country’s humanitarian needs. “The shortage of funding puts at risk hundreds of thousands of affected people throughout the country,” he said. “While so far in the year there seems to be less international humanitarian funding available for Sudan’s Strategic Response Plan due it seems to emerging crises elsewhere in the region, Sudan’s humanitarian needs continue to mount. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, nearly 300,000 people in Darfur were displaced from their homes by violence. These people join the 2 million people in Darfur who are already living in camps and depend on international humanitarian aid to survive.” (all emphases in all quoted material have been added)

Shortly afterwards, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNet) warned (29 June 2014):

As of June, 5 to 5.3 million people in Sudan are food insecure. Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) food insecurity is likely to persist among internally displaced persons (IDPs) and poor host communities in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan. At least 25 percent of IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas of Blue Nile State and pockets of populations without food assistance in Darfur are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September.

An accompanying chart shows that areas in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan are all ready at the "Emergency Level," the last stage before food "insecurity" becomes famine. Khartoum has blocked all humanitarian relief to civilians in rebel-held territories in the Nuba since June 2011. In Darfur we have been witness to the same ambition unfolding in slow motion for a decade.

On 21 August 2014 the UN’s World Food Program in Sudan issued a warning that carried a good deal more urgency, expressing "deep concern on the ‘bleak prospects’ of the level of food security during the coming months." The number of those in Darfur who would need assistance was raised to 2.2 million, and the cost of humanitarian operations in Sudan as a whole would be $1 billion—none of this paid for by Khartoum. Although predictably dismissed by the regime as "political," the WFP report also noted some of the long-term consequences of Khartoum’s refusal to address either food security issues or the collapse of the agricultural sector:

The WFP expressed concern on the acute food shortage faced by two million children in Sudan annually, saying that 54% of them suffer from growth problems and 16% suffer from issues of underweight. It also said that 32% of the newborns are underweight and below the average natural weight of children around the world.

This is the context in which to understand a report by Radio Dabanga (26 August 2014) of what clearly amounts to a cost-cutting measure by WFP in West Darfur:

WFP representatives notified them that the organisation is planning to distribute food ration cards for the most needy displaced only. “The WFP staff further told us that they will classify the displaced into four levels. Teams will determine the level of their illegibility for distribution. The implementation of this programme will begin in October.” The sheikh said that they refused the classification of the displaced into levels, and called via Radio Dabanga on the UN to intervene, and repeal the decision “so as to ensure that food will be distributed to all the displaced without discrimination."

The implication is that one can be displaced and yet not need food assistance, or very little. This may be true for some, but not for the vast majority. Indeed, many camp locations are far too insecure to permit farming or food production in any significant quantities. Employment to earn money to buy food is exceedingly scarce in camps, and many of those farms that are accessible have had their crops deliberately destroyed by militia forces or by nomadic camel herders. Food inflation is a subject addressed below, but it is currently exorbitant and Darfuris are not able to begin to keep up with skyrocketing food prices.

Five days later (31 August 2014) Radio Dabanga reported on further reductions in food for displaced persons in camps—this time by an across-the-board 25 percent:

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will reduce the food rations for the population of the camps for the displaced in Wadi Salih locality in [formerly West] Darfur. A camp sheikh informed Radio Dabanga from Garsila camp that the monthly food rations provided by the WFP will be reduced from eight 100kg sacks of sorghum for every fifty displaced to six sacks. “They decided to reduce the food rations at a time in which the prices of food are skyrocketing at the markets. A 100kg sack of millet now costs SDG500 ($87), a bottle of cooking oil SDG30 ($5.20), and a ratul (450 grams) of dried okra SDG40 ($7).”

This is the global picture insofar as we can construct it from statements made by or attributed to the WFP; the FEWSNet report is probably our best and least politically influenced assessment. But nowhere are there figures for Global Acute Malnutrition; nowhere does it designate in which areas the emergency thresholds have been passed.

Save the Children has produced an excellent fact sheet on GAM and the various thresholds that mark the severity of malnutrition for children under five years of age. But as context the following statistical generalization is made, underscoring the consequences of the UN’s shameful acquiescence in the hiding of these data for Darfur:

Malnutrition contributes to between 35 and 55 percent of all childhood deaths. In acute emergency situations, malnutrition can account for even more. (Acute Malnutrition Summary Sheet)

On the prevalence of GAM within a population, the fact sheet provides the following thresholds:

Acceptable: < 5 percent
Poor: 5 – 9 percent
Serious: 10 – 14 percent

Critical: > = 15 percent

 What the evidence as we have it suggests about food insecurity in Darfur

What is the GAM rate for children in Darfur? These are the crucial data that are not reported by the UN. But within the context of the above reports, as well as the occasional local assessments reporting under-five GAM well in excess of 15 percent, we can make a good deal more sense of the anecdotal evidence that comes from Radio Dabanga. Collectively this evidence strongly suggests that there are many large areas in Darfur where the GAM rate among children is in fact far above the emergency threshold of 15 percent. This is certainly the case in the Gireida area of South Darfur:

•  Children starving in Gireida camps, South Darfur

GIREIDA LOCALITY (2 July 2014) – The number of child deaths as a result of diarrhoea, malnutrition, and a lack of health care, is increasing alarmingly in the Gireida camps in South Darfur. “More and more are dying lately of diarrhoea and hunger in the five camps for the displaced in Gireida locality’, a resident of Abdos camp reported to Radio Dabanga…. FULL STORY

•  Gireida, South Darfur: armed robberies, prices soaring and food rations reduced

GIREIDA LOCALITY (22 June 2014) – Seven residents of the Gireida camp for the displaced in South Darfur were wounded in ambushes on Thursday. Prices of food are soaring in Gireida locality, while the World Food Program Programme has reduced the food rations for the displaced.

[One resident] pointed out that the price rise coincided with the WFP’s decision to strip sugar, lentils, beans, and oil from the food rations, and reduce the amount of sorghum. “One person now receives one malwa and a half of sorghum a month.” The camp resident appealed to relief organisations to accelerate the provision of food for the displaced, “also non-food items such as plastic sheets and tins” … FULL STORY

•  Thousands face starvation in Otash camp, South Darfur

OTASH CAMP (4 June 2014) – Thousands of the displaced inhabitants of Otash camp in Nyala, face a bleak humanitarian and health situation as no food rations have been received. Those affected include the… FULL STORY

  "Starving displaced need protection": South Darfur camp head

KALMA CAMP (15 July 2014) – More than 70 people have died in less than a month the Kalma camp for the displaced in Nyala locality, South Darfur, owing to the bad humanitarian situation in the camp, and the rampant insecurity.Saleh Eisa, the Secretary-General of Kalma camp, reported to Radio Dabanga, that the 163,000 residents of the camp are living in extremely dire humanitarian conditions.  “People are starving because the food rations were cut. Because they are weak already, they are prone to all kinds of diseases. There is a shortage of clean drinking water, health services are lacking, and the overall insecurity in the locality worsens the situation.”… FULL STORY

•  Situation dire in Central [formerly West] Darfur camp as prices soar, food rations cut

DELEIG CAMP (10 July 2014) – The 30,000 displaced in the Deleig camp in [formerly West] Darfur are living in extremely difficult circumstances. There is no work, food rations have been cut for a number of them… FULL STORY

•  Displaced desperate in South and North Darfur camps

DARFUR (25 June 2014) – The humanitarian and security situation in Kass camp in South Darfur, and Zamzam camp in North Darfur is extremely bad. A widow of the Kass camp for the displaced complained to Radio Dabanga that the camp residents, “in particular widows and women whose husbands disappeared,” are living in conditions she described as “worse than catastrophic." “We are desperate. The militiamen continuously assault us when we leave the camp. It is impossible for us, women, to collect firewood or tend a garden.  We don’t know what to do anymore to provide our children with food.”… FULL STORY

•  More than 20,000 newly displaced in North Darfur in dire need

NORTH DARFUR (19 June 2014) – An estimated 21,300 people who have sought refuge near the UNAMID team site in Korma, North Darfur, are in urgent need of assistance. The people fled their homes following a… FULL STORY

[To put the distress of these 21,000 people in statistical perspective, we need to recall that the UN estimated that almost 400,000 civilians were newly displaced in 2013, and a comparable number displaced this year as of August 2014 .]

•  Life-threatening situation in Mellit – aid agencies in Sudan alarmed

KHARTOUM (5 June 2014) – The health situation of thousands of new arrivals at the UNAMID site at Mellit in North Darfur is life threatening. Today UN agencies embarked on a mission to Mellit to try to convince the local authorities to allow emergency response…. FULL STORY

•  WFP to reduce food rations in Central [formerly West] Darfur camps

WADI SALIH LOCALITY (31 August 2014) – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will reduce the food rations for the population of the camps for the displaced in Wadi Salih locality in [formerly West] Darfur. A camp sheikh informed… FULL STORY

 [Khartoum has chosen deliberately to exacerbate malnutrition by a range of actions, though few more direct than the expulsion of Norwegian Church Aid]:

•  Central Darfur nutrition centres closed

ZALINGEI (11 June 2014) – The supplementary nutrition centres run by relief organisation Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) in Hamidiya and Hassahissa camps in Zalingei, [formerly West] Darfur, were closed on Tuesday. The supplementary nutrition centres run by relief organisation Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) in Hamidiya and Hassahissa camps in Zalingei, Central Darfur, were closed on Tuesday based on the state government’s refusal to renew NCA’s contract.… FULL STORY

 [We should not forget that many Darfuris have been driven into eastern Chad, as well as some into Central African Republic. These refugees—too fearful to return to Darfur—are perhaps even more deprived than internally displaced persons]:

  Darfur refugees in eastern Chad close to starving

EASTERN CHAD ( 23 July 2014) -Soaring prices and the reduction of food rations have forced a number of Darfuri refugees in the eastern Chad camps to break the fast with bread made of toxic mekheit seeds, and to dig into ant hills in search for food. The refugees in eastern Chad are facing extremely difficult humanitarian conditions, Ali Yagoub, the head of the Treguine refugee camp told Radio Dabanga. “The people in the camps are almost starving, as the current food ration contains a little sugar, vegetable oil, and 15 grams of sorghum per capita a day. Flour, salt, and soap have been cut. Because the people do not find work to earn some income, they are forced to dig into ant hills in search of food, and resort to making bread from the toxic mekheit seeds. The camp head appealed to the World Food Programme to speed up the provision of food.

850 kilocalories a day

On 1 July, the heads of the World Food Programme and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, urgently appealed for extra funding. In a joint press release, they warned that funding difficulties, compounded by security and logistical problems in some countries, have forced cuts in food rations for nearly 800,000 refugees in Africa. In the press release, the two UN agencies state that the refugees in Chad are facing the severest food cuts. “Some 300,000 refugees in Chad, primarily from Sudan’s Darfur region in the east and from the Central African Republic in the south, are among the worst affected by the cuts. Food distributions there have been slashed by up to 60 percent, leaving refugees with a scant 850 kilocalories per day. In the south of Chad, some refugees are able to grow food on small plots provided by the government. In the arid east, however, that is not an option for most refugees. Nor is it a viable solution for newly arriving refugees.” Generally, the WFP tries to provide 2,100 kilocalories per refugee a day.

•  Hungry Darfuri refugees eat toxic seeds

EASTERN CHAD (2 July 2014) – The Darfuri refugees in the 12 eastern Chad camps are suffering from an acute shortage of food. “The suffering has worsened with the beginning of the month of Ramadan," Jamal Daoud… FULL STORY

•  CAR forces attack, pillage Sudan refugee camp

BANGUI (3 July 2014) – Bembere camp for Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic (CAR) was attacked and plundered by opposition forces on Monday. Camp Sheikh Abdel Rahman Ismail told Radio Dabanga that “about 150 militants of the opposition” attacked the camp at 6 am, beat the Darfuri and Sudanese refugees with fists and rifle butts, and stole everything the refugees were carrying, including money, mobiles, and livestock…. FULL STORY

 Political context

The UN’s withholding data that lie behind these horrific reports denies us a clearer picture of malnutrition in Darfur. And ultimately, refusing to permit either publication or promulgation of Global Acute Malnutrition data is not merely reprehensible: UN silence on this subject will cost lives as relief organizations struggle to allocate their increasingly limited resources and deal with growing access restrictions imposed by Military Intelligence (MI). MI has long been Khartoum’s primary instrument of control in Darfur, and in recent years has come to dominate the regime’s "Humanitarian Aid Commission" (HAC), now seen by all humanitarian actors as a deliberately obstructionist force. Increasingly, HAC is the vehicle by which threats are conveyed to particular organizations working in Darfur.

Why doesn’t Khartoum wish to have GAM data released? Among other reasons, an accurate representation of food insecurity in Darfur would be acutely embarrassing to a regime that has long insisted—in the face of all evidence to the contrary—that the situation in Darfur is improving, that people are returning to their lands and homes, and that fighting by Khartoum’s regular military forces (Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF) and militia allies (which SAF arms, trains, and coordinates with in many cases) is directed solely against rebel forces. This is nonsense, and from aerial bombardment of civilian targets to wholesale village destruction, to assaults on camps for displaced persons, regime-allied militia forces in particular have been extraordinarily destructive. Moreover, given Khartoum’s early reluctance to be associated with the Janjaweed, the current public association with the most prominent of these militias—the Rapid Support Forces (RSF),largely recycled Janjaweed)—is highly significant.

Khartoum’s brazen embrace of the RSF illustrates just how much the world’s attention has moved on from Darfur, and the meaningless character of the International Criminal Court indictment of President al-Bashir on multiple counts of crimes against humanity and genocide in orchestrating violence in Darfur. It has become, as I’ve recently argued, "The Genocide the World Got Tired Of" (Huffington Post16 August 2014). And amidst this broad fatigue, there is little willingness to invest in a serious peace process (the Doha process has failed massively and conspicuously), or to provide serious human security on the ground in Darfur (a failed UNAMID is permitted to remain the fig-leaf for the sanctimoniously invoked "responsibility to protect"), or even to fund humanitarian operations. After eleven years of conflict, donor fatigue has taken deep hold, creating a dangerous inertia. And by withholding key data (not only GAM data) Khartoum makes it increasingly difficult for international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations to assess their impact or how well they are responding to acutest need. This in turn has serious implications for donor support.

 Food shortages, food inflation

Darfur suffers from severe food shortages and consequently from rapid acceleration in food prices. As long as farmers cannot return to their lands, and the international community provides diminishing amounts of food, essential food items will become evermore costly. And rapid food price inflation is one of the most ominous signs of serious deterioration in food security. Part of the problem is that the entire Sudanese economy is staggering under the onerous weight of an overall inflation rate of more than 50 percent. The regime’s official figures have inflation below this level, but I have yet to read an account by a credible economist or regional expert who does not think inflation is above 50 percent—some believe by a great deal (this in turn is reflected in the dramatic decline in value of the Sudanese Pound). Inflation in food prices has been especially high, and there have been occasional bread shortages. This reflects an almost total lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) with which to buy goods and services—including wheat to make into flour.

But the agricultural economy of peripheral Darfur has always been partially shielded from the economic effects, good and bad, of developments at Sudan’s center. The current level of food destruction, however, the many years of radically reduced crops because of insecurity, the continuing appropriation and destruction of farmland by Arab militias and other opportunists, and the looting of vast amounts of livestock have all made locally generated food inflation a terrifying reality. We are sure to see a great many more accounts such as this from Mukjar (West Darfur) and Darfur more broadly:

•  Prices soar in Mukjar, Central Darfur; goats stolen

MUKJAR (11 July 2014) – Residents of Mukjar complain about the soaring prices of consumer goods. Gunmen are stealing livestock from herders. The people in Mukjar locality are complaining about the… FULL STORY

•  Food prices soar in Darfur

DARFUR (1 July 2014) – Many families in Darfur complain about the soaring prices of consumer goods, in particular as the fasting month of Ramadan started. Traders suffer from the low purchasing power. “… FULL STORY

The violence in Darfur has worked to reduce the food made available by the UN’s WFP, thus exacerbating inflation. The reasons are four-fold:

[1] WFP lacks a sufficient number of implementing partners for food distribution; many INGOs that might formerly have partnered with WFP have been expelled or otherwise prevented from assisting;

[2] Many routes for convoys, even with nominal UNAMID escort, are simply too dangerous and drivers refuse to make the trip; just as frequently, Khartoum’s security forces arbitrarily deny access to humanitarians;

[3] Darfur is a logistical nightmare for food distribution, given its distance from Khartoum and any navigable body of water (in this sense it is as isolated as any region in Africa); and as more and more humanitarian organizations withdraw, logistical capacity is not replaced. WFP alone simply does not have the manpower to distribute the food it brings into Darfur;

[4] WFP and the UN High Commission for Refugees are both very seriously underfunded for global efforts and Darfur in particular. Focus that might previously have been on the region has shifted in many cases to the impending famine in South Sudan. Perversely, this only increases food insecurity in Darfur.

Until there is more food, and it moves in rational ways within Darfur, inflation will continue, putting more and more families in a position where they cannot afford an adequate human diet.

 The demise of markets in Darfur

Repeated attacks on markets, large and small—in towns and rural areas—have been one of the most destructive features of Khartoum’s intensifying war of attrition by means of militia proxies. As the attacks have grown bolder and more violent, people have lost access to markets. In turn, the market system has started to collapse in some areas, even as markets provide places where people can obtain food by means of other goods of value or by savings.

Markets tend to stimulate economic activity and facilitate the distribution of goods, none more important than food.

But those who come to markets, either as buyers or sellers or both, cannot feel that they are constantly targets of militia assaults. Yet this is precisely what has occurred during the sustained acceleration of violence over the past two years and more.

•  Citizens killed, injured at Central and South Darfur markets

DELEIG / GIREIDA (7 July 2014) – Two school students were shot at the market of Deleig in Central Darfur on Sunday. On the same day, militiamen raided the Jukhana market, near Gireida town in South Darfur,… FULL STORY

•  Gunmen storm Bindisi market, Central Darfur

BINDISI (26 June 2014) – Government institutions, schools, and shops closed their doors, and citizens hid inside their homes, when militiamen raided the market of Bindisi in Central Darfur on Thursday. “… FULL STORY

•  Militia loots South Darfur market, citizens

EL RADOOM LOCALITY (10 June 2014) – Pro-government militiamen robbed the market in Alaiba area, El Radoom locality in South Darfur, on Friday. One of the victims of the looting told Radio Dabanga that the militiamen… FULL STORY

•  Six dead, 12 wounded in Central Darfur attacks

ZALINGEI (9 June 2014) – Five people were seriously injured in an attack by pro-government militiamen on Dereig market, west of Zalingei in Central Darfur. Sheikh Matar Younis told Radio Dabanga that a… FULL STORY

Even Nyala, the largest city in Darfur and capital of South Darfur, is not immune from such attacks, as Radio Dabanga reports (1 June 2014):

 • South Darfur hawkers complain about assaults, robberies

NYALA (1 June 2014) -Hawkers at the central market of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, complain about assaults and robberies by militiamen since Tuesday.One of the Nyala market vendors reported to Radio Dabanga that government-backed militiamen have been roaming the streets of Nyala and assaulting and robbing the peddlers continuously since Tuesday. They are believed to be members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the hawker said.“Those militiamen severely beat anyone whose mobile telephone turns out to be a cheap one. They are searching for Samsung Galaxy smartphones, which cost SDG4,000 ($700) apiece. When they find a cheap mobile, they beat the owner, demanding they pay the price difference with a Galaxy phone. They also rob the citizens of anything they have with them, even sugar, soap, or their clothes.”

Almost as destructive as the attacks on markets are the increasing number of "check points" (in reality nothing more than extortion sites) along roads leading to these markets. Coupled with the dramatic increase in kidnapping of travelers for ransom, simply getting to markets has become a much more expensive and dangerous expedition:

• New attacks, checkpoints in North Darfur

KUTUM (3 July 2014) – Pro-government militiamen have reportedly killed four students, and plundered a town in North Darfur. The militias have tightened their control on vital roads in the state, imposing fees and levies at the toll gates they have randomly set up.Their sharpened control on the Kutum-El Fasher and Anka-El Tina roads coincide with the escalation of violence, abductions and looting of vehicles. Prices of goods doubled in Kutum, Um Baru, Karnoi, Kabkabiya, and El Sareif Beni Hussein localities, an activist from Kutum told Radio Dabanga.

•  Road closure, tolls, squeeze prices in North Darfur

EL FASHER (8 June 2014) – The flow of commercial trucks and passenger buses between Kutum and El Fasher has stalled for the second week owing to the security situation in North Darfur. The halt is a result… FULL STORY

 •  Gunmen impose toll charges on highway linking Darfur’s largest cities

Sudan Tribune | August 5, 2014 (NYALA) – Unidentified armed men on Monday imposed toll charges on buses travelling between South Darfur state capital Nyala and North Darfur state capital El-Fashir.The group set up more than 40 tents on the road to collect tolls amounting to 1,200 Sudanese pounds (SDG) on each bus.The chairman of the buses owners’ union in Nyala, Ali Shomo, told Sudan Tribune that the gunmen forcibly imposed exorbitant amounts on the buses under the pretext that they would secure passengers and their belonging against looting.He added the armed men stopped buses heading to El-Fashir at Dimma area, 28 km from Nyala.

•  Passengers shot at North Darfur militia ‘toll gate’

DAR EL SALAM / SIRBA (10 August 2014) – In North Darfur, a bus passenger was shot dead, and two others were wounded by militiamen on the El Fasher-Nyala highway [the primary road in Darfur—ER] on Saturday. On the same day, a resident of the Kondobe… FULL STORY

 •  Four lorries hijacked in North Darfur

UM SIDIR (22 June 2014) – Militiamen in uniform ambushed four lorries in North Darfur on Thursday. They robbed the passengers of all their belongings, including large amounts of gold. Mohamed Ahmed Minawi… FULL STORY

•  Ambushes, vehicles stolen in Central and South Darfur

DARFUR (3 June 2014) – On Monday, militiamen ambushed a vehicle of the South Darfur State’s Ministry of Health in the area of Digeis in South Darfur. In Um Dafug, South Darfur, the vehicle of a… FULL STORY

The destruction of African farming

The overwhelming number of displaced civilians—well in excess of 2 million, not including the more than 350,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad—are from the various non-Arab or African ethnic groups of Darfur. In general, they tend to be sedentary farmers, as opposed to the nomadic/pastoralist lives of Arab "herders" (the words "herders" in Radio Dabanga dispatches inevitably means "nomadic Arab groups herding camels and cattle"). When in an August 2004 directive Musa Hilal spoke of "changing the demography of Darfur" and "emptying it of African tribes," he meant as well that African farmland would be appropriated as a reward to those Janjaweed who fought for the Khartoum regime. As a consequence, many farmers find that they cannot return to their lands or do so only with the greatest risk. The effect has been to take much of the best arable land in Darfur out of production and convert it into pasturage, which yields only a fraction of the food previously produced on the same acreage. Moreover, crops are frequently destroyed by camels allowed to forage in fields following planting, with immensely destructive consequences.

The "demography of Darfur" has been "changed," and in those changes lie the sources of ongoing conflict over land tenure in a region already experiencing serious desertification and unprecedented ethnic strife:

•  Two men killed on their farms in South Darfur

NYALA/BIELEL/EL FASHER (9 August 2014) – Militia elements killed a displaced man nearby a camp for internally displaced people in Nyala locality, South Darfur, on Wednesday. In the adjacent Bielel locality, a farmer was… FULL STORY

•  Gunmen block farmers from tending their lands in Darfur

DARFUR (20 July 2014) – In North Darfur, militiamen deny farmers access to their farmlands. In Kass locality, South Darfur, gunmen robbed a group of farmers on Friday. In North Darfur, farmers in the… FULL STORY

•  Herdsmen pillage, threaten voluntary return towns in Darfur

KABKABIYA/ZALINGEI (26 July 2014) – Armed herdsmen threatened to attack and burn down villages west of Kabkabiya town, North Darfur, on Thursday, if the residents would not pay them a large amount of money.  A… FULL STORY

•  Assaults on farmers, rape attempt, abducted man released in Darfur

DARFUR (4 August 2014) – Residents of Mukjar camp for the displaced in [formerly West] Darfur are complaining about an increase in assaults by gunmen. In particular farmers are targeted. In Karkar village, West Darfur… FULL STORY

•  Farmers abducted, livestock released on farmlands in Darfur

ZALINGEI LOCALITY / EAST JEBEL MARRA (22 July 2014) – Militiamen abducted two farmers and seized their tractor in the area of Dankoj in [formerly West] Darfur on Friday. The farmers were released on Sunday. The gunmen demand SDG35,000 for… FULL STORY

•  Vast tracts of farmland spoiled, gunmen injure displaced in Darfur

MERSHING / KABKABIYA (13 August 2014) – In South Darfur, herders forcibly entered their livestock on farmlands in Mershing locality on Sunday. Militiamen on Monday raided three homes in the Mawashi camp for the displaced in Kabkabiya locality, North Darfur… FULL STORY

•  Cattle spoil crops on Central Darfur farmland

ZALINGEI LOCALITY (9 July 2014) – Cattle released by armed herders on farmland in Zalingei locality, [formerly West] Darfur, on Sunday spoiled all the crops. Yousif Yahya Yousif, a farmer living at the Hamidiya camp for… FULL STORY

•  Herders assault and expel South Darfur farmers

KASS (13 June 2014) – Armed herders have subjected farmers in villages near Kass town in South Darfur on Saturday and Sunday to beating, severe whippings, and expulsion from their lands. They… FULL STORY

•  Two farmers shot in Zalingei locality, Central [formerly West] Darfur

ZALINGEI LOCALITY (26 June 2014) – On Tuesday, two displaced farmers were shot by herders in Zalingei locality, [formerly West] Darfur“Herdsmen released their livestock on farmlands in Wadi Zor, north of Wadi Azum, about… FULL STORY

•   Two farmers wounded in South Darfur attack

GIREDA (8 June 2014) – Two South Darfur displaced farmers have been transferred to Gireida hospital "in serious condition" following a militia attack on Friday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that Yousif… FULL STORY

•  Herders release livestock on Darfur farmlands

DARFUR (24 August 2014) – Farmers in Kutum locality, North Darfur, and in East Jebel Marra complain of livestock destroying their crops. Gunmen on Thursday killed a student, and injured a farmer in… FULL STORY

•  Crops damaged by livestock in Central [formerly Central] Darfur

ZALINGEI (24 June 2014) – On Wednesday, armed herders released their livestock on farmlands in Wadi Oubar, northeast of Zalingei, the capital of [formerly West] Darfur. Large areas of crops have been damaged…. FULL STORY

•  Camel herders beat couple near South Darfur camp

BIELEL (6 June 2014) – Three camel herders tied down and severely beat a married couple in Tebeldina area, south of El Salam camp in South Darfur on Thursday. Mahjoub Adam Tabaldiya, a sheikh of El… FULL STORY

 Sometimes the farmers attacked are also Arabs, as in the case of the Beni Hussein in North Darfur:

•  Abbala herders attack Beni Hussein farmers in North Darfur

EL SAREIF BENI HUSSEIN (27 August 2014) – Abbala tribesmen attacked Beni Hussein farmers in the area of Hijeir Tigeiteeg in El Sareif Beni Hussein locality, North Darfur, amid fears of renewed clashes again between the… FULL STORY


The wide range of assaults on food security for Darfuris has never been so intense as it is presently; more was destroyed in the early years of the genocide—both food- and seed-stocks, as well as looted or killed cattle—but still there were other sources of food within Darfur, and humanitarian assistance ramped up quickly from mid-2004 onward.

What we see now is the grim obverse of the early years of ethnically-targeted destruction. There are few African farms to be seize, and possession by nomadic groups requires only maintaining an armed presence. The humanitarian presence is much reduced, and struggles for access, organizational resources, logistics, and funding are increasingly futile. Mass expulsions of humanitarian organizations in March 2009 curtailed relief capacity by roughly 50 percent, and there was never anything approaching a full recovery.

Beginning in 2008, the eyes of the world have steadily drifted away from Darfur, and Khartoum feels emboldened in completing the savage task it set for itself in confronting rebel movements in 2003. This is one reason why we should take particular note of the Rapid Support Forces: they are made up not only of former Janjaweed, but they have been openly embraced and celebrated by President Omar al-Bashir. Indeed, they have been deployed to Khartoum on at least one occasion, a potent signal of the powerful role they will play in any future security operations against growing political opposition.

We are more likely to see greater mortality from malnutrition and disease than at any time since the height of the violence (2003 – 2005). Despite this, despite the extraordinary urgency of maximizing how humanitarian resources—particularly food and supplementary food supplies—are deployed, the UN continues to withhold critical data on malnutrition. Most conspicuously withheld are Global Acute Malnutrition rates for older children and adults—and for those under five years of age, far and away the most vulnerable, even as they are presently least able to articulate their needs except by dying.

The denial of these critical data is the face of the UN in Darfur.

Eric Reeves’ new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012; www.CompromisingWithEvil.org; review commentary at: http://wp.me/p45rOG-15S)

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