Famine in Darfur

Authors: Joanna Mieczkowska and Dominika Iszczek
World Information Transfer UN Intern, fall 2011

In Duran about 2 million people have been displaced by war that began in 2003.  This conflict caused problems with trade and markets, severely affecting people’s livelihoods.  An increase in conflict in the Abyei area and in the state of South Kordofan displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.  Strained livelihoods are major concerns and many households are food insecure.

In 2004, Darfur, Sudan was described as the “world’s greatest humanitarian crisis” due to conflict.
Twenty years previously, Darfur was also the site of a disastrous famine.
Darfur is affected by sporadic tribal conflict and poor rainfall, resulting in sudden market fluctuations, livelihood changes and displacement.
Seasonal food shortages (hunger gaps) combined with drought are highly dangerous.
In West Darfur, 69% out of the 1.3 million population of the state are depending on monthly rations of the general food distribution.
The May 2010, West Darfur Food Security Monitoring Survey reported that the cost of a minimum healthy food basket has increased 14% between February and May 20101
The November 2009 West Darfur Food Security Monitoring results indicated a significant deterioration in the food security situation as majority of IDPs (80%) and mixed communities (65%) was moderately food insecure.1

Food Security and Livelihood Assessment2

Started in 2004
Assess the food security and livelihood situation of displaced populations and rural communities and their access to food security assistance and other services.
Ran by the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).


In recent years, the percent of food insecure households has decreased but it was still a staggering 45% in 2008 (1.7 million people).

Involvement Improvements:

Access to clean water in 2007 stood at 76% (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).

Food Security and Emergency Food Assistance

According to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), approximately 4 million people are moderately or highly food-insecure in Darfur due to ongoing insecurity and a poor 2009/2010 harvest.

During the second quarter of 2010, the cost of the minimum food basket; the amount and type of food required to satisfy basic nutritional needs; increased by 38 percent, 35 percent, and 14 percent in North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur, respectively, according to WFP. Households in Darfur spend between 65 and 75 percent of total income on food items.

The rapid expansion of emergency food aid provision to meet increased requirements in Southern Sudan has decreased resources in other regions of the country, including Darfur. WFP plans to reduce the food aid ration for IDPs in Darfur from 72 to 50 percent of the standard ration of approximately 2,100 calories per day during the July to September lean season; when prices peak and households deplete food stocks; potentially reducing food availability and increasing food prices. However, WFP continues to prioritize life-saving activities and notes that many IDPs in Darfur have developed income-generating livelihoods, reducing dependence on emergency food assistance.

FEWS NET anticipates that food security may deteriorate until the October harvest; however, IDPs and communities with limited access to cultivation will likely remain dependent on food assistance following the harvest. WFP plans to closely monitor the impacts of food ration cuts and will vary the ration for IDPs based on the fluctuation of food prices and the availability of income-generating activities.

To date in FY 2010, USAID/OFDA is providing nearly $3.9 million to five grantees implementing agriculture and food security interventions, including seed and tool voucher programs, throughout Darfur.

Source: USAID.gov

1 United Methodist Committee on Relief (UNCOR) Report: Promoting Self-Sufficiency and Recovery for Conflict-Affected Populations in South Darfur State. (SDN-11/A/37540)
2 Executive Brief on the DARFUR Food Security and Livelihood Assessment – 2008