QUANTIFYING GENOCIDE IN DARFUR: April 28, 2006 (Part 1)Posted by: Eric Reeves on Saturday, April 29, 2006 - 10:04 AM
Briefs & Advocacy: Post-Machakos '06
Current data for total mortality from violence, malnutrition, and disease
UPDATED May 18, 2010
(Part 2 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article104.html )
April 28, 2006
[How Many in Darfur Have Died?
May 18, 2010 update, commenting on:
A Global Darfur Mortality Assessment from:
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)
Newsletter #10, July 2009
This is the key conclusion from CRED's July 2009 Darfur mortality study:
"Overall, we estimate the excess mortality in Darfur to be approximately 300,000 (180,000-460,000) deaths from September 2003 to December 2008. The main cause of death is not violence but rather disease such as diarrhea, which accounted for 80% of the excess deaths. We have further identified significant differences between IDPs and residents."
Notably, this statistical range excludes mortality from February 2003 through August 2003, a time of extraordinarily violent human destruction and woefully inadequate international humanitarian responses. It excludes mortality among Darfuri refugees in Eastern Chad. It also excludes mortality from December 2008 to the present, a period during which many have died but no reliable data have been systematically collected, in large measure because of widening insecurity in the region and blunt threats from the Khartoum regime. The figures for violent mortality during the period from December 2008 to the present, coming from the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur, are extremely narrow in range and implication; they allow for very few inferences about global mortality, including from violence-related deaths or non-violent deaths that are consequent upon the preceding years of military displacement of civilians. Khartoum continues to refuse to permit any cluster-sample studies of global mortality in Darfur.
Together, these two periods of exclusion, and the exclusion of Darfuri mortality in Eastern Chad, likely include many tens of thousands of war-related deaths that are nowhere reflected in the CRED figures, perhaps over 100,000 more. The range offered by CRED ("300,000 ([180,000-460,000]“) provides a context for my own estimate of April/May 2006: “Currently extant data, in aggregate, strongly suggest that total excess mortality in Darfur, over the course of more than three years of deadly conflict, now significantly exceeds 450,000″ ( http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html ).
Mine may be a high-end figure, but is certainly within the range suggested by the CRED study, especially if we consider the mortality not captured within its temporal and geographic framework. I would note that Francesco Checchi, a London-based epidemiologist who has worked in Sudan for a number of humanitarian groups, has said of my work: “Reeves has an activist agenda but ‘he knows Darfur well.’ What he’s done is ‘mathematically correct’ and ‘sufficiently legitimate’ to establish a high-end count” (Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2006 ( http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0831/p20s01-woaf.html ).
It should be recalled that when the first of my many mortality assessments appeared (February 2004) the official UN estimate was 3,000 dead from all causes; I argued that reports and accounts already available made that figure untenable. My February 2004 conclusion was that the appropriate figure was at least ten times this total (I was guided at the time by field research in Eastern Chad by Sudan Focal Point/South Africa). In retrospect, the UN estimate was a disgracefully careless understatement. I remain convinced that the final total mortality figure for Darfuris will also be considerably higher than the mid-range figure cited by CRED last July.]
Currently extant data, in aggregate, strongly suggest that total excess mortality in Darfur, over the course of more than three years of deadly conflict, now significantly exceeds 450,000. As Rwanda marks a grim twelfth anniversary, we must accept that while vast human destruction in Darfur has unfolded plainly before us, we have again done little more than watch, offering only unprotected humanitarian assistance while some 450,000 people have perished as a result of violence, as well as consequent malnutrition and disease. Human destruction to date, however, certainly does not mark the conclusion of the world’s moral failure in responding to genocide in Darfur—on the contrary, this massive previous destruction is our best measure of what is impending.
For terrifyingly, all current evidence suggests that hundreds of thousands of human beings will die in the coming months from these same causes. A rapidly accelerating contraction of humanitarian reach and capacity has left three quarters of a million civilians without any assistance whatsoever in Darfur and eastern Chad; many hundreds of thousands of other innocent human beings have only exceedingly tenuous access to aid. Further, the UN World Food Program announced just today that it was halving food rations for Darfur and eastern Sudan:
“Millions of vulnerable people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and eastern Sudan will receive half-rations of food beginning on Monday, due to a significant shortfall in funding, the United Nations World Food Programme said. [ ] Aid agencies are particularly concerned about the effect of reduced rations in Darfur, where rampant insecurity and continued displacement cause enormous suffering. ‘Food must come first. We cannot put families who have lost their homes and loved ones to violence on a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet.’” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN], April 28, 2006)
But such a diet is precisely what will confront the people of Darfur on Monday, this as children under five are already likely dying in large numbers as malnutrition rates are again rising. (UNICEF reported on April 26, 2006 a significant increase in malnutrition rates). Almost 4 million people in the greater humanitarian theater are classified as “conflict-affected” by the UN, and in need of humanitarian assistance, primarily food aid that has now been cut to half what human beings require to live.
And far from being able to pre-position food in anticipation of the coming rainy season, the massive shortfall in April food deliveries to Darfur suggests that there is simply far too little available:
“Between 1 and 24 April , the UN World Food Program transported a total of 10,597 tons of food in the three Darfur states, realizing only 29% of the April  plan due to a serious shortage of food available in Port Sudan and in the hubs of El Obeid and Khartoum.” (UN World Food Program Emergency Report, No. 17 of 2006)
The immense human needs in Darfur persist even as international aid capacity is diminishing because of funding shortfalls and dramatically increasing insecurity on the ground. The New York Times reports today from Khartoum:
“‘The situation for humanitarian workers and the UN has never been as bad as it is now,’ said one senior aid official here who requested anonymity because aid agencies that have spoken out have been targeted for harassment and expulsion. ‘The space for us to work is just getting smaller and smaller.’ [ ] ‘You start wondering, “what will it take?”‘ the official said. ‘How bad does it have to get before the international community acts?’”
“How bad does it have to get before the international community acts?” How many people must die? How much suffering must we witness? The answers already offered by the world community represent a failure beyond shame.
KHARTOUM’S GENOCIDAL LOGIC
Khartoum’s decision to launch a large-scale, coordinated military offensive in South Darfur earlier this week seems designed to assure the failure of the Abuja (Nigeria) peace process. Human Rights Watch reported yesterday:
“The Sudanese government has launched a new military offensive in South Darfur that is placing civilians at grave risk. An April 24  attack on a village in rebel-controlled territory used Antonov aircraft and helicopter gunships indiscriminately in violation of the laws of war, and displaced thousands of civilians who had sought safety there. [ ] The April 24 attack on Joghana village appears to be part of a broader government offensive in South Darfur [ ]. According to eyewitness reports, government forces and militias began attacking Joghana at 7am on April 24. Civilians who fled the town said that an Antonov plane and two helicopter gunships were used and that the Antonov dropped bombs that killed civilians, although the numbers of dead and injured could not be verified. Thousands of displaced persons were living in Joghana, controlled by the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), after fleeing earlier attacks on their villages.” (press release, April 27, 2006)
In addition, comments today by several leaders of the SLA (much the larger of the two Darfur rebel movements, though badly and bitterly divided)—reported by both Reuters and the UN IRIN in Abuja—suggest strong disapproval of the African Union-proposed “final” draft peace agreement. Nor is there any evidence that Khartoum would abide by any signed agreement, one with very weak guarantees and guarantors. It is critical to remember that the National Islamic Front regime has never abided by a single agreement with any Sudanese party…not one, not ever. Impending failure in Abuja (or in the implementation of an Abuja agreement), along with Khartoum’s highly provocative large-scale military offensive, augurs a resumption of extremely fierce fighting throughout Darfur.
As a direct result, we may very soon see wholesale humanitarian evacuations from even larger areas than are currently inaccessible (many thousands of square kilometers in Darfur, especially West Darfur and the Jebel Marra region). Just today the UN announced that insecurity and attacks on aid workers and operations in North Darfur, primarily by the rebel movements, may force the suspension of humanitarian activities in this area:
“Unless rebel attacks against UN and other relief operations in a northern sector of Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region stop immediately, the world organization will be forced to suspend all assistance to 450,000 vulnerable people living in the area until safety can be assured, a top UN official warned today.” (UN News Centre, April 28, 2006)
Huge areas in eastern Chad are also now inaccessible because of Khartoum’s success in exporting genocidal destruction by means of its regular forces, its Janjaweed militia proxies, and the Chadian rebel groups that enjoy very substantial support from Khartoum’s National Islamic Front.
As a consequence of insecurity, humanitarian contraction and withdrawals, and funding shortfalls, we must expect that the impending rainy season/”hunger gap” (May/June through September) will see human destruction that may exceed all previous mortality. Populations weakened by three years of conflict, utterly without food reserves, and facing a large-scale collapse in humanitarian assistance, have already started dying in large numbers—even greater than those that prompted UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to declare last October, following an assessment mission to Darfur: “People are dying and dying in large numbers” (Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2005). In fact, available data, including from the UN’s World Health Organization, suggest that well over 6,000 Darfuri civilians are dying every month because of war-related causes (see statistical derivation below).
In briefing the UN Security Council last week, Jan Egeland declared:
“‘I think it’s a matter of weeks or months that we will have a collapse in many of our operations,’ Jan Egeland, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters after briefing the Council on the crises in Darfur, northern Uganda and Chad. ‘As I told the Security Council today, I don’t think the world has understood how bad it has become of late.’” (UN IRIN, April 21, 2006).
In March, Egeland had been equally forthright:
“[Those in] unreachable areas, [Egeland] said, ‘will soon get massively increased mortality because there is nothing else but international assistance.’ He expected deaths to increase markedly within weeks.” (Associated Press, March 13, 2006)
In fact, mortality has certainly increased significantly in the intervening six weeks, although the humanitarian community has no way of accurately assessing the scale of the increase. At the beginning of this month, Egeland had again declared that, “‘the only way that we can avoid a massive loss of lives—massive—is by enabling this humanitarian operation, which is on the ground, to be able to do its job’” (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs release, April 5, 2006).
In fact, all evidence suggests that far from being “enabled,” humanitarian operations continue to collapse rapidly. The “massive loss of lives” has begun.
IN THE ABSENCE OF HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION
All that can reverse this course of humanitarian collapse and accelerating human destruction is urgent intervention, with all necessary military resources and an appropriately robust mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection. At present, there are no signs that the UN is planning for such an urgent, well-equipped, and robust mission. And the view from NATO, at its current meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, is captured in a single sentence:
“‘We are in the early planning stages for what we can offer next but the consensus is that the NATO footprint should be as limited as possible,’ said one observer of the foreign ministers’ talks in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.” (Reuters [dateline: Sofia, Bulgaria], April 28, 2006)
As the Reuters dispatch summarized the views of Western foreign ministers: “alliance ministers agreed on Friday [April 28, 2006] that any presence should be limited and only in support of African or UN efforts.” Since the African Union has agreed, in principle, to hand over the Darfur mission to the UN only at the end of September, the NATO decision works to preserve the status quo. Most estimates of UN deployment have a time-frame of six to nine months, strongly suggesting that any meaningful UN deployment might not be accomplished until 2007. And given Khartoum’s obstructionist policies, even this may be optimistic: the National Islamic Front regime is currently denying visas to members of a UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations assessment mission. Further, NIF President Omar el-Beshir has threatened to turn Darfur into a “graveyard” for any non-African Union forces, which puts him squarely on the same page with Osama bin Laden, whose recent audio-tape urged al-Qaeda’s “holy warriors” to attack the “crusade” in Darfur.
That this “crusade” consists of humanitarian efforts to save Muslims in Darfur, whose entire population is Muslim, is an obscene irony that seems to matter no more to el-Beshir and the National Islamic Front than it does to bin Laden, who was hosted by the NIF from 1991 to 1996, and who maintained very close ties with Khartoum for a number of years after decamping to Afghanistan.
In assessing Khartoum’s particular response to the humanitarian effort that bin Laden describes as a “crusade,” we must bear in mind Egeland’s recent report to the Security Council on fourteen categories of deliberate and highly consequential NIF obstruction of international relief efforts (“Fact Sheet on Access Restrictions in Darfur and Other Areas of Sudan,” Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 20, 2006). This relentless obstructionism has consequences the will ultimately be measured in the many tens of thousands of innocent lives lost because humanitarian assistance was prevented from reaching desperately needy civilians. Of the various actions by Khartoum that “deliberately inflict on the [African tribal groups of Darfur] conditions of life calculated to bring about [their] physical destruction in whole or in part” (1948 UN Genocide Convention, adapted from Article 2, clause [c]), humanitarian obstruction must rank as one of the most conspicuous and “deliberate” inflictions, as well as one of the most deadly.
RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF MORTALITY IN DARFUR
This analysis (in two parts) surveys the quantitative data currently available and relevant to an assessment of human mortality in Darfur. Numerous methodological problems present themselves in any such effort, particularly given the heterogeneous sources of data, for both violent mortality and deaths from disease and malnutrition. But the alternative to struggling with these difficulties is acquiescing before transparent misrepresentations of human destruction in Darfur. An egregious example is the figure of “180,000 deaths,” cited by the Associated Press and others as representing global mortality in Darfur. The figure does nothing of the sort, as even the most cursory account of its provenance reveals.
In March 2005, the UN promulgated a figure of 180,000 as representing deaths from disease and malnutrition over the preceding 18 months, this on the basis of a UN World Health Organization (WHO) mortality study and update (September/October 2004; see Part 2). Using the WHO rate of 10,000 deaths from disease and malnutrition per month, and multiplying this rate by 18 months (going back to September 2003), the UN arrived at a figure of 180,000.
But critically, this figure did not include in any significant way violent mortality, even as humanitarians throughout Darfur have consistently reported that violent mortality was the primary cause of death through summer 2004. Nor did the figure include mortality prior to September 2003; and of course it takes no account of mortality subsequent to March 2005 (again, the date of original UN promulgation). The figure also takes no account of mortality in Chad. In short, the use of “180,000″ as a global mortality figure is a reporting scandal, an example of journalistic moral slovenliness that works to discount, indeed statistically elide, the lives of as many as 300,000 human beings.
To be sure, a number of particular difficulties confront any effort to quantify the number of civilians who have died violent deaths since February 2003. But there are very significant systematic data, as well as important generalized assessments and anecdotal data. A good example of the latter appears in the January 2006 study from Physicians for Human Rights, which has undertaken a number of assessment missions to Darfur and eastern Chad. In “Darfur: Assault on Survival” (January 2006, http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/news_2006-01-11.html ), PHR presents (on the basis of well-constructed interviews of carefully selected individuals in three representative locations) a shocking finding:
“Prior to the [military] attacks the 46 [Darfuri] men and women PHR interviewed had a total of 558 people in their households. Of these, 141 were ‘confirmed dead’—their deaths were witnessed or their bodies found—while 251 were ‘killed or missing’—meaning their whereabouts were unknown. The average household size [defined as 'people who eat out of the same pot'] before the attacks was 12.1; after it was 6.7.”
This represents violent mortality of 45% for the family populations interviewed. We needn’t believe that the population sample in the report is statistically representative of Darfur as a whole to see that huge areas have suffered enormous violent human destruction. An epidemiological study of violence in West Darfur, published in the British medical journal The Lancet (October 1, 2004), found that 95% of those displaced in West Darfur had been violently displaced. Well over 2 million people have now been displaced, either internally within Darfur or into eastern Chad, suggesting that at least 2 million have been violently displaced. Even if the PHR figure of 45% mortality among the population of violently displaced persons overstates by 100% the violent mortality rate for Darfur as a whole, this would still imply statistically that approximately 450,000 human beings had died violent deaths.
Though this number is staggering, this is precisely the characterization made almost two years ago by Asma Jahangir, then UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who reported in late June 2004 that the “number of black Africans killed by Arab militias in the Darfur region of Sudan is ‘bound to be staggering’”:
“Ms. Jahangir said that during her visit, ‘nearly every third or fourth family’ she spoke to in the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) within Darfur had lost a relative to the militias. ‘It’s very hard to say [accurately] how many people have been killed,’ she said, but interviews with IDPs indicated it would be ‘quite a large number. They are bound to be staggering.’” (UN News Centre, June 29, 2004)
RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF VIOLENT MORTALITY AS OF SEPTEMBER 2004
The primary source of comprehensive, statistically significant data on violent mortality in Darfur remains the September 2004 study by the Coalition for International Justice ( “Documenting Atrocities in Darfur,” September 2004 at http://www.sangam.org/2008/12/Documenting_Atrocities.php?uid=3180 ). On the basis of 1,136 carefully randomized interviews, conducted among the Darfuri refugee population in Chad at a number of camp locations along the border, the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) found that “sixty-one percent [of those interviewed] reported witnessing the killing of a family member.”
The total number of refugees in Chad was at the time of the study (August 2004) approximately 200,000. If we assume that this population of persons displaced from Darfur represented the many hundreds of thousands of violently displaced persons within Darfur at the time, then the total number people represented by the CIJ study was well over 1.5 million, and might have reached to 2 million.
How do we establish the approximate contemporaneous figure for those people violently displaced, either into camps, into towns, within inaccessible rural areas in Darfur—or into Chad?
In what was at the time the most recent “Darfur Humanitarian Profile,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 1.45 million people had been displaced into accessible camps within Darfur (“Darfur Humanitarian Profile,” No. 6, September 16, 2004, page 5). The UN report also estimated that an “additional 500,000 conflict-affected persons are in need of assistance” (page 9), and it is reasonable to assume that a great many of these people were also displaced. Moreover, the figure for people displaced within IDP camps was based on UN World Food Program registrations, and significantly understated the actual internally displaced population.
Thus out of a total displaced population in Darfur of approximately 1.75 to 2 million, we require an estimate of the number of persons who experienced violent displacement of the sort that had at the time created over 200,000 refugees in Chad. Given the extremely high level of village destruction throughout Darfur, and the tenacity with which these people have sought to cling to their land and livelihoods, displacement per se is a very likely indicator of violent displacement.
Here again lies the relevance of the epidemiological study published in The Lancet, which offered clear evidence that displacement is overwhelmingly related to violent attacks. In two camps, Zalingei and Murnei, statistically rigorous assessments found that “direct attack on the village” accounted for displacement of 92.8% of the Zalingei population and 97.4% of the Murnei population (the combined camp population was approximately 110,000) (The Lancet, October 1, 2004, “Violence and mortality in West Darfur, 2003-04″).
If we very conservatively assume that 80% of the total displaced populations that remained in Darfur were driven to flee by “direct attack on villages,” the number of violently displaced persons in late 2004 was approximately 1.4 to 1.6 million—1.6 to 1.8 million including the refugee population in Chad. The average family size in Darfur is between than five to six, suggesting that a population of 1.6 to 1.8 million represents roughly 265,000 to 360,000 families. If randomized interviews by the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) found that “sixty-one percent [of those interviewed] reported witnessing the killing of a family member,” then this yields a mortality figure for violent deaths of 160,000 to 210,000 human beings as of early September 2004. This represents approximately 10,000 violent deaths per month since the outbreak of major conflict in February 2003. While violent mortality declined significantly after summer 2004, it has remained an enormous source of human destruction.
In the absence of additional statistically significant data, we must make assumptions about continuing levels of violent human destruction on the basis of rates from September 2004. Assuming an average 50% decline in violent mortality for the remaining months of 2004, and a 75% decline in violent mortality for 2005 and 2006 to date, this still yields an additional 60,000 violent deaths. This in turn yields a range of 220,000 to 270,000 total violent deaths since the outbreak of major conflict.
Caveats and other considerations:
There is some chance that despite randomizing of interviews in Chad, and multiple camp locations at which interviews were conducted, overlaps existed in the “family members” identified as having been seen killed. This is a negligible number if “family” refers to nuclear family. Indeed, the chances of overlap even for members of extended families are quite small, given the diversity of interview locations. (See Part 2 for a discussion of “family size,” and other approaches to the CIJ data.)
More significant is the fact that those conducting interviews for the CIJ found that interviewees often reported more than one family member had been killed, often several more than one. Yet the statistical derivation offered here presumes that only one family member had been killed among the 61% who reported seeing (at least) one family member killed.
Secondly, the study could not take account of the number of families in which all members were killed, and who thus had no reporting presence in the camps where interviews took place. The CIJ study does report that 28% of those interviewed “directly witnessed” persons dying from the consequences of displacement before reaching Chad. These deaths must be considered the direct consequence of violence, if not violent deaths per se, and would significantly increase violent mortality totals. Of additional statistical significance, the CIJ study indicates that 67% of those interviewed “directly witnessed” the killing of a non-family member.”
Given the number camp locations (19), and the randomizing techniques used within the camps—
“refugees were selected using a systematic, random sampling approach designed to meet the condition in Chad. Interviewers randomly selected a sector within a refugee camp and then, from a fixed point within the sector, chose every 10th dwelling unit for interviewing. [ ] One adult [from the dwelling unit] was randomly selected [for interviewing]” (page 5)—
—the figure of 67% of refugees “directly witnessing” the killing of a non-family member strongly suggests that assumptions made in this analysis may lead to significant underestimation of violent mortality. For clearly a very large percentage of those who witnessed the violent death of a family member (61% of those interviewed) also witnessed the death of a non-family member, i.e., the deaths of at least two persons (again, see analysis of “family size” in Part 2).
RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF MORTALITY FROM DISEASE AND MALNUTRITION
If we accept as a reasonable point of statistical departure the UN estimate of 180,000 deaths from disease and malnutrition (March 2005), the calculation of additional non-violent mortality over the past 13 months requires an appropriate Crude Mortality Rate (CMR). A UN World Health Organization-overseen study (June 2005) provides precisely such a CMR (“Mortality Survey in Darfur, May-June 2005: Main Findings,” Khartoum, June 2005). While there was great variability in the CMR (deaths per affected 10,000 of population per day) within the three Darfur states, in some areas the mortality rate was well in excess of the “crisis level.” (The “crisis level” for adults is a CMR of 1.0; for children under five it is 2.0.) In the camps for displaced persons in South Darfur, for example, the CMR for children under five was 2.6—well above the “crisis level.”
It is also important to note the limitations in reach of this study of mortality rates in Darfur. In North Darfur and West Darfur the study was able to sample populations in camps for the displaced, displaced populations outside the camps, and conflict-affected residents. But in South Darfur, where violence had been greatest during the six-month period covered by the study (November 2004-May 2005), only the camps for internally displaced persons were surveyed. In other words, this study tells us nothing about the mortality rate among displaced persons outside camps in South Darfur, or among resident conflict-affected populations.
This is a very serious gap, especially since the previous UN World Health Organization study—published in September/October 2004—included only the mortality rate for large Kalma camp (near Nyala, South Darfur). South Darfur is far and away the most populous of the three Darfur states, with a population of 3.1 million—almost twice that of West Darfur (1.6 million) or North Darfur (1.6 million) (figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
Because the WHO-overseen study did not include the very large areas to which the UN (for security reasons) had no access, many hundreds of thousands of people are not represented. Because these people were largely beyond the reach of UN and non-UN humanitarian assistance (food aid to rural areas by the International Committee of the Red Cross is the most notable exception), they almost certainly experienced mortality rates significantly higher than those populations with access to humanitarian aid.
Indeed, the thesis of the June 2005 UN mortality rate study was that humanitarian assistance was responsible for the decline from the very high mortality rates revealed by the September/October 2004 WHO study. Conversely, the continuing absence of humanitarian assistance strongly suggested that significantly higher mortality rates prevailed in areas not surveyed by the study.
What was the size of the contemporaneous population for which the late June 2005 was relevant? “Darfur Humanitarian Profile” No. 16 represented conditions as of July 1, 2005 and indicates a conflict-affected population of 3.2 million people in Darfur (page 3); the UN High Commission for Refugees offered at the time a figure of approximately 200,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad. In his most recent report to the UN Security Council, UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland indicated a conflict-affected population of 3.5 million in Darfur, while at the same time reporting a figure of 250,000 Darfuri refugees in Chad. The number of internally displaced and conflict-affected Chadians now exceeds 100,000, suggesting a current total population of almost 4 million human beings affected by the Darfur genocide.
Given the limitations in access on the part of the June 2005 WHO-overseen mortality study in Darfur, it is reasonable to assume a global Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) of 0.9 (0.1 higher than the study figure of 0.8 for areas accessible to humanitarians); from this must be subtracted a figure of 0.3 (what UNICEF suggests is a “normal” CMR for Darfur). Thus monthly mortality in Darfur attributable to disease and malnutrition in June 2005 stood at over 6,000 (derived from a conflict-generated CMR of 0.6 for a population of 3.4 million x 30 days=6,100 “excess” deaths per month).
While humanitarian conditions continued to improve through July 2005, increased violence and insecurity beginning in August 2005 almost certainly marked the end of any improvement in the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR). Since September, at which time the UN withdrew all non-essential humanitarian personnel from West Darfur, humanitarian access has continued to contract, even as camps for displaced persons have become more vulnerable. September 2005 also saw the first direct attack by the murderous Janjaweed militia on a camp for displaced persons—Aro Sharow camp in West Darfur, home to approximately 5,000 defenseless civilians. Such attacks have subsequently increased in scale. Humanitarian evacuations and withdrawals have also accelerated significantly in recent months and weeks, and will continue to do so, as Egeland warned a week ago: “‘I think it’s a matter of weeks or months that we will have a collapse in many of our operations,’ [Egeland] told reporters after briefing the Security Council on the crises in Darfur, northern Uganda and Chad.” (UN IRIN, April 21, 2006).
It seems reasonable to assume that the CMR that obtained in June 2005 cannot have improved, even as the number of conflict-affected persons (the “denominator” for mortality calculations) has increased by over 400,000 people. Assuming a total conflict-affected population in Darfur and eastern Chad of 3.8 million, monthly mortality (using the CMR of the June 2005 WHO-overseen study) is now over 6,800 per month.
Assuming an average monthly mortality figure of 6,500 since the March 2005 UN promulgation of a figure of 180,000 deaths from disease and malnutrition, the total number of such deaths now stands at 260,000. If violent mortality is in the range of 220,000 to 270,000, total mortality, from all causes, is now approximately 480,000 to 530,000 human beings.
If Jan Egeland was right in December 2004, arguing that as many as 100,000 people could die every month in the event of full-scale humanitarian withdrawal (Financial Times [UK], December 15, 2004), then the equivalent current figure must approach 150,000 deaths per month. For in December 2004 approximately 2.6 million people were affected by the conflict in Darfur and eastern Chad; today this figure is over 3.8 million, an increase of over 45%.
Such numbers seems incomprehensible. And yet all indicators point both to large-scale collapse in humanitarian operations and access, and consequent human mortality that will indeed exceed the moral imagination. But the brutal realities on the ground in Darfur and eastern Chad are everywhere in evidence; the remorseless unfolding of Khartoum’s genocidal logic is there for all to see.
We may choose not to look; this will only increase our shame.
Northampton, MA 01063
( This is Part 1 of a two-part mortality analysis; Part 2 is available at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article104.html )