Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The “Genocide Emergency” for Darfur was declared in response to the political and military actions that are causing enormous civilian loss of life. One result of these actions is an acute humanitarian crisis, as people flee their homes and find themselves without food, shelter, medical help, and other basic needs of life. This panel addresses this humanitarian aspect of the conflict: Are the humanitarian resources devoted to Darfur adequate to the situation? What further steps could the international community and U.S. government aid in particular, take to help alleviate the crisis?
Fidele Lumeya, with Refugees International, just returned from a field visit to Darfur and shares his findings. Dick Owens, who is in charge of the response management team for the U.S. Agency for International Development, addresses how USAID is responding to the humanitarian needs of Darfurians at risk.
JERRY FOWLER: My name is Jerry Fowler. I’m the staff director of the Committee on Conscience here at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. We first started directing our attention to the situation in Darfur pretty much at the beginning of the year, which, unfortunately, was after the crisis was in full swing, and at that time we stressed that we saw a threat of genocide in Darfur based on actions by the government of Sudan and allied militias.
We’ve done a number of programs here at the museum. In May, I went to Chad, and visited and interviewed refugees who had fled from Darfur, which confirmed our concerns about what was happening. Most recently, a couple of weeks ago, the museum declared, for the first time in its history, a genocide emergency for Sudan based on what’s happening in Darfur. Some of the reasoning behind that is included in the alert sheet that has been distributed, that you’ve seen, and that is being distributed to visitors of the museum.
There’s also additional information on our Web site which is www.ushmm.org. We will continue to, as an institution, address this issue and if you want to keep up with what we’re doing, it’s possible to sign up for our electronic alerts through the Committee on Conscience Web site, and I encourage you to do that.
I think it should be clear, from what I’ve just said, there is a very acute political crisis in Darfur, but one manifestation of the political crisis is humanitarian consequences and that’s really what we’re focusing on today.
Fidele Lumeya, who is with Refugees International, has just returned from a field visit to Darfur and is here to share his findings, which based on my conversation with Fidele, are in some ways quite provocative, in some ways may not be shared by everyone, but I think it’s important to get as much information out as possible about the situation on the ground.
Also joining us today is Dick Owens from the U.S. Agency for International Development. He’s in charge of the response management team for USAID and has just returned from three weeks in Khartoum where he was directing, as I understand it, USAID’s activities on the ground in Sudan. He has a long and distinguished career with AID from which he tried to retire and as I understand it, was retired for one week before he was called back in to work full time on Darfur, which is what he’s doing now.
So without further ado, I will hand it over to Fidele to give us a report on his trip to Darfur and then we’ll hear commentary from Dick Owens.
FIDELE LUMEYA: Thank you, Jerry. I want to thank you also and the organization because I remember that every time we meet you have been outspoken on the issue of genocide in Darfur. Many of us have been reluctant to go there; but your organization have been outspoken on that.
The situation demands more courage to go and we should start talking about the genocide, where everyone is afraid to talk about.
And also I’m delighted to be here with Dick. Thank you for USAID’s work in Darfur. We have met with many of the DART and the USAID people in Darfur to discuss the humanitarian response. I can say that without U.S. assistance in Darfur crisis, I think today we could bury more than 350,000 people already. Because the U.S., so far, is the only country which has responded to this crisis by giving money and sending more people on the ground. I think Dick will talk about the figure, but the budget is still 350 million. But so far U.S. has given 150-something million and the Europeans are not even on the half of that.
On the humanitarian response, we, as Refugees International, are saying we are giving too little and is already too late. We are on the downhill of the crisis where we will be expecting more people to die. I’ve been there, I’ve been in Chad, this has been my fourth trip in the region.
What is happening? On the humanitarian response, one, we look at the resources. Financial resources, we are below the budget, the 350 million. We have yet go over the three--two hundred, if you look at the last figure, I will let Dick to talk about that. So we are under-resourced on the financial side and understaffed on the human resources. If you are there, as you can see, Darfur is big, but we are not covering the 100 percent of area of the crisis because every organization has maybe two people only, or one person, or three.
The first information you get when you are in Khartoum from OCHA is that they want more than 600 people if we want to solve the Darfur crisis today. More than six hundred!
And you go in the field, you found that yes, OCHA information is accurate because there are no people in the field. The other side of human resources is that the hygiene situation in Darfur is so weak. We came back--I just started my job yesterday. We came back sick. Sick of parasites, sick of the situation you see, sick, because you know that there is no money. You are talking about camp with 80,000 people but you don’t see the plastic sheets. People are living in the condition that is inhuman situation.
Look at all the pictures you can see coming from Darfur. You will see blue plastic sheeting. That will give you the idea of humanitarian crisis in Darfur, that people are living in that condition, and every day is raining almost, not for 30 minute or 40 minute, is raining for more than five hours!
We were hosted by UNHCR in Jenina, and the house where we were living, it was leaking every day, so we were moving our bed from one corner to another, and one day I told my colleague, this is only one week and we are just moving around. What about those people who can no longer move around? They have their bed and everything there.
What we were doing to look at the situation because we were just--after the rain, we’d pick our cars and go to the camp and sit there and look at how the camp is being flooded. So you see the flood everywhere, in every camp. This gives you already the idea of the outbreak of every kind of disease because people are exposed to.
This is the humanitarian side --already the picture is a bad one. I was telling people the recipe for more death is already there and we are in the downhill of the crisis, downhill because we responded too late and we are responding with too little. In a crisis response, you attack the crisis at the first phase of the beginning, is a way you can expect that we will maybe curve or decrease the number of the dead. But in the Darfur crisis, when we knew that there is a crisis in Darfur, it was already in the third phase of the crisis, where we had more IDPs, refugees in Chad, and malnutrition rate was already high. In this level is where you come with more resources. But we didn’t come with more resources, in terms of financial resources, in terms of staff.
Now with the rainy season coming, the situation is worsening, so we are going to decide of the crisis where we should expect more people to die from, not from the government, from the killing, but more from diseases, because the hygiene in the camp is deteriorating, for two reasons. Those who are in charge of the hygiene campaign, they didn’t have funds on time to hire more people to start educating the IDPs on hygiene.
People are defecating everywhere, and then when there is a flood, so this flood is going back to the wells. We have those kind of problem happening.
My second point beside the resource, financial and the human, is the studies of what we call the five life-saving sectors. You have food and nutrition, you have water and sanitation, and you have shelters. You will see that on food and the nutrition, approximately 20 to 30 percent less than the 2100 kilo calories necessary to maintain human health is being provided. 20 to 30 percent less, because for a human being to be in good shape, and in many the case of IDPs, the standard is 2100 kilo calories a day, and the 20 liter of water. They are using 7 liters. So they are, in term of drinking, they are below the standard. In term of feeding, they’re also below the standard, so the body is weakening every day, and is being exposed to any kind of disease.
In term of the weather and sanitation, you can see in many areas those who are providing water are not reaching the population because they are underfunded. It’s not a problem of only staff, but there are NGOs in Darfur who have been told to go and they will be funded there. But while they are there, there are no funds yet. They are just spending time preparing proposals, discussing all the bureaucracy around. Proposals are taking too much of their time.
Regarding sanitation, as I told you, there is a rainy season, there is rain every day almost. I called today. In Jenina, they told me that no, we are under the rain. You have rain and then you have floods in the camp. All the measures you can take for sanitation are coming to bring it back to zero level, where you should start, and the starting means more funds again and more staff. It is like a cycle.
Shelter is, as I said, another area where we found a serious problem. We talked with some people, some NGOs, who are supposed to implement this program there. They are facing serious shortage of plastic sheets. I don’t know the details. But since the time we were leaving, we knew that even in the pipeline they didn’t have any plastic sheets. So that’s why you see more of the IDPs living in conditions that are not acceptable. Blankets, jerrycans and pots for cooking, are also missing. We need more of these.
In general, in the Darfur crisis, our response is half, half, half. Half of the budget, half of the services, and then what do we expect? We expect people to die because everything is done in half, half, half, half. You don’t see any sector where you can say okay, here is the improvement, here is where we are improving. There is no sector such in Darfur. Everything is just half done or on its way.
Only I can say the health sector, WHO and others, are making an effort to improve the health sectors. Vaccination is well done. WHO, they are just improving, the vaccination campaign is almost, the coverage is good, and you can see even MSF and all of those NGOs who are implementing the health program. They are acting. They are there. They are doing what they can do.
But without food, it’s nothing. If I cannot eat enough, I cannot drink enough water, you come with medicine, my body’s already weak, and then I’m living in a condition where there is no shelter for me. So it’s like you give me all kind of medicine but other condition are not being met, so I go back again to my deterioration. So this is the problem for those who are implementing the health program.
The other sectors we looked at were the security and protection. I met a woman in the morning, early morning, with her five children. She left the camp because the government in Jenina, the commission and the police commissioner went to the camp to tell the IDPs that they should go back home because it is secure. This woman has lost her husband for almost two month. That was why she fled and came to Murnei camp.
So now the government is coming to tell them that they should go back. She decided not to go back and not to stay in the camp that night. Under the rain, she packed, she took her five children, they walked all the night long up to Jenina, the capital, to flee, and their final destination was to go to Chad.
If you take the map, you look at Murnei, you look at Jenina, and you look at this woman with five children, the youngest one I think was one year old. She should go to Chad, because she doesn’t want to go back to the village where she lost her husband and then the village was burned. I look at this woman, I look at the children, that picture keeps haunting me. I cried and I felt like I’m depressed. I left but I can’t escape seeing that picture, and I’ve been in Chad. I went to Bahai, I went to Touloum, I was in Touloum. I know how far Touloum in Chad is from Jenina. So seeing this woman from Murnei moving to go to Chad, and with all the risk she took that day, I say this we cannot tolerate.
We went to a meeting to discuss with the government about the protection issues and the issue of returning. They say it is safe, IDPs should go back, we are sending police. And the IDPs, they are doing such a good math here. They are saying look, before the war, before being attacked, we had 15 police in the village, and now 30 police, and now they are sending fifteen. Can you tell me 30 police can protect us? Fifteen will protect us? So we cannot go. And for most of them, the last solution is just to cross and go to Chad, and this for me, gave me the idea that we should be linking the crisis in Darfur and the flow of refugees in Chad.
The more crisis we will have in Darfur -- if we don’t solve the Darfur crisis -- the more flow of refugees we will have in Chad. The case is this, this woman with her five children, going to Chad. Those who are in Jenina, the solution for them is not going back to the village, it’s just crossing the border and going to Chad. And they are not secure, they are not protected, there is no protection for them, they are just themselves, and that’s the danger.
Now around the camp, because this has been also the issue, you will find that in Jenina, around the camp there are soldiers, and police that you cannot identify. There are a bunch of people, those who have been in those crises where the government has lost control, and have armed everyone in the city, you find that picture, you find it in Jenina, where everyone is armed, where you have police on every corner.
Where we were living in UNHCR compound. On the other side, the opposite side of the compound, were the gunships looking at our compound. Every day when you pass there, you say what, this is, just one day this guy can forget and then kill all of us here. That is the picture you get from Jenina.
At the airport already you have these three helicopters that are going to bombard the villages and you have three plane caches there. It gives you already the idea of Jenina. When you go to Nyala, it’s where you don’t see military on the street. You see more of the PDF people, the Popular Defense Forces, running around, and the level of violence depends on who is sponsoring that violence. We made a survey to come, to understand how violence is happening here, who’s doing what, the key actors in this Darfur crisis. You will find that in the first level is where you have the government-sponsored violence.
The key actor is the army, the regular army that came from Khartoum. A third of the army in Sudan is made of people from Darfur. Because Darfur was neglected there is no economy. Young men found the army the only place they can and make money. When the war broke out in Darfur, the government took them from the south, where they were based, to go back home and fight. They refused. At that time, Human Rights started already documented some of the human right violation that the government started arresting the soldiers from Darfur who refused to go and fight. The government found itself that it cannot fight the rebels because the army is not willing to go and fight.
Then they started arming the Fursan group. The Fursan are key in this government-sponsored violence. Not the Janjaweed. We are talking too much of the Janjaweed. But we are forgetting this group of Arabs that have been armed by the government. Because there is a history here. In 1988, during the fight between the SPLA and the north, John Garang sent one of his commander from Darfur, his name was Dawood, to go and start a front in Darfur. So when he went to Darfur, he started a front but the government went and armed the Fusan tribe to fight the SPLM in Darfur, and then the SPLM couldn’t have a base in Darfur, couldn’t start any rebellion in Darfur.
After many years with SLM coming again, the government has gone back to these tribes and gave them arms, and it’s well-documented. They knew to whom they give the guns. They resist with the tribes, they resist with the name. When we are talking about disarming the Janjaweed, if you talk about that in Khartoum, those of us who have been there, you see all the official laughing. We don’t understand why they are laughing. They know that we don’t know exactly what we are talking about, because we are going to do a journalistic survey. You should stay there, talk with the civil society people, to know exactly what is happening here.
The Janjaweed are buying their guns everywhere, but if we want to talk about disarmament, for us, the Fursan group, the Fursan tribes are the ones to be disarmed, because they are the ones the government armed. The Fursan are combining the effort with the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed are outlaws. They have been there, they live close to each other, they are nomadic people, they have their own agenda. Their own agenda is just to steal, to loot and to kill, rape. They don’t have any political agenda. They come to rescue the Fursan and the army when they are weak, to attack SLM. But they don’t keep working with them. They will attack and when they attack, and they steal cattle [?] and they go to Libya, they sell it.
We came across in one of the village with SLM people. We talked with them and we asked them where are you getting all these guns and ammunition.
They told us we buy it from the Janjaweed, which [inaudible]. They are Arabs middle man, and they were explaining to us that the government give too much of the arms and the ammunition to people and now people are finding themselves with the guns and ammunition but without food.
They are selling guns in order to get money and then they can survive. So that kind of thing, you find it also in the Great Lakes between the interahamwe and the mai-mai and the Rwandan army, and the Congolese army. They interact. You think that they are fighting. We found them there.
The second level of violence is the interethnic violence where you have Arabs as victims. They are being attacked by the Massaleet, the Fur and the Zagawa. In a village like Delberet, Diuruf, I talk with the group of Sheiks--I spend one week with Arabs who have been displaced from the Delberet region. They are in the Mossai camp in Nyala.
They have been displaced because they were attacked by the Zagawa, the Fur and the Massaleet. So here also they will tell you, because they call the SLM the Tora Bora. They will describe that it was in the morning, for example, this violence happened on July 3rd, where the village of Diuruf was attacked by the SLM and they were in the blue land cruiser with guns. They came to support the Fur, wanted to attack the village of Diuruf. The attack started at 7:30 in the morning and they killed eight people. One woman was kidnapped but after three days she was released.
If you compare the violence in between the first category and the second, you will see that when you talk with Arabs, the nature of violence happening here, in interethnic violence, is--they will tell you that no, those who have been killed were killed because they were in the crossfire.
It’s not like the violence that is happening in first level, where you have rape of women, we have killing. Here is it like the intergenerational conflict between Arabs and the non-Arabs, and this is where they have also a local mechanism to solve this problem. When you hear about some people going back, it’s because they confound the leaders of Arabs, tribes, and the known Arabs can come together and solve that, i.e., I observed during a meeting between Massaleit, Fur, and the Zagawa leaders, and Arab leaders. They wanted to see if this group can go back, because if they can’t, they start suffering. They didn’t have enough food.
They found that is best for them to go back home than staying in the camp. They spent three weeks, no one could assist them. So I told some of the humanitarian workers that we should be very careful, otherwise we will politicize the humanitarian aid, because everyone will say that no, we cannot serve the Arab, they are being brought by the government, whereas when we talk with them they are victims. I went to see their villages, which had been burnt by the Mussaleet and Fur, and other ethnic groups.
I will stop there as my time is running. My advocacy purpose here is more to call up on the feminist movement. I don’t hear, I don’t see a mobilization of feminists as we did with Afghan women. They are full in women. If you look at them, look at the theme of all the pictures, is just portraying--they’re full in women. You see them on the back of the donkeys. You see them doing their work. You see them, really courageous women--they want to challenge the Janjaweed. They don’t want to be identified as raped women. They don’t. They want to be identified as women, going to fetch water, going to look for firewood, for that is giving them their power. If you see them, you are in Darfur, you will see women in the middle of nowhere, walking by themselves. I’m coming from a tradition where women are always with men around.
Look at the picture from Central Africa. Women are always portrayed as being close to men, being protected. But this is not the case of Darfur women. Darfur women, they grew up free, because at eight years old already they’re in the bush with goats. They got their freedom from the early age, and they want to keep this sense of freedom. But there is rape happening.
I don’t hear women around the world being mobilized around women from Darfur. We should sustain them. Someone, women should go there, bring them together, empower them, talk with them, tell them that no, we are here, we want to be just working with you, alongside. This is not what I’m hearing.
Where are women around the women of Darfur? We should bring them here. They have something to say. I spoke with Omar, who gave me many contacts. I told Omar, I want to hear from women. I want to see: are they only victims or they are doing something? And you can see them—very outspoken.
If you read the last report in the New Yorker, they are talking about women being arrested. I talked with those women, even though they didn’t tell me their names. I know them. They are willing to talk but they are being just threatened by the government. But they say, we won’t be quiet. We are just being mobilized around our issues. We want to be free. No one will take our freedom. So I’m appealing all women to stand up and just join your hands with the women of Darfur. They want to know that there are other women around the world who are just backing their case.
So this is my appeal for you and I hope that women will go to Darfur, not to do humanitarian aid assessment, but to just see women from Darfur and fight alongside with them. Thank you
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you, Fidele. Thank you very much. Now I’ll hand it over to Dick Owens.
RICHARD OWENS: Thank you. I would like, on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, to express our appreciation to the Committee on Conscience, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, for this opportunity today.
I enjoyed very much reading the Refugees International report on Darfur. Ironically enough, I read it while I was in Khartoum. It was reprinted in its entirety in one of the English language newspapers that are published there, and I had it waved at me later in the day by a member of the Sudanese government, saying, see, things aren’t that bad in the health sector, Refugees International says so.
Of course Refugees International had said no such thing. But that is an example of what the entire community faces in Khartoum and in Darfur.
Very briefly, I’m going to talk a little bit about what the U.S. Government, not just USAID has done in terms of its response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. I’ll talk a little bit about the various levels at which response occurs. I’ll talk a little bit about something that makes this a very unique emergency and also what we see as the principal constraints.
For those that are interested in this, USAID, the team I’m in charge of produces a factsheet on the Darfur humanitarian emergency. It’s published every Friday. It’s available on the USAID Web site, has numbers at a glance, talks about numbers affected, has budget figures, what’s been provided in terms of humanitarian assistance by the U.S. Government, not just USAID. We cover the State Department population, Refugees and Migration Bureau funding for both Darfur and Chad. We break it out, so that you can see how much is going to United Nations agencies, international nongovernmental relief organizations, how much is USAID specific, in terms of something we call the common pipeline, the emergency airlift that we and the British government are carrying out with support of the United Nations and a couple NGOs in Darfur. And it also gives an update on the current humanitarian situation and a program map, lets you know where all the U.S. Government funding is going by implementing partner, U.N. agency, NGO, throughout the three states of Darfur.
In a briefing paper we prepared yesterday, Andrew Natsios, the USAID administrator, made sure that we put something in it that was very critical and, to a certain extent, very unique to Darfur. In virtually every other humanitarian crisis of this type that I’ve dealt with, and certainly Andrew Natsios has a lot more experience at this than I do, you see that victims of these types of crises, regardless of the underlying reason for the crisis, deal with it and survive it due to a combination of their own coping mechanisms, and external humanitarian assistance.
Darfur is becoming very unique in that those coping mechanisms that both the African and Arab populations of Darfur have developed over hundreds of years, use of native plants, ability to trade, markets, ability to find off-season employment, remittances--don’t forget remittances ever--are either going away or have been cut off due to the fact that people have been herded into camps, or camp-like sites throughout the three states of Darfur, where they no longer are able to get out and access those coping mechanisms, or take advantage of those coping mechanisms. They are now entirely dependent, almost entirely dependent on external humanitarian assistance, which in the best of cases is never enough. In that sense, this is very different.
U.S. Government assistance to Darfur, and this includes both Chad and Darfur to date, is $192 million. That breaks out roughly as not quite $160 million for Darfur and just over thirty, almost $33 million for Eastern Chad. Don’t forget Eastern Chad; things are bad there. If you look at our factsheet, you’ll see a couple key numbers.
Global acute malnutrition rates for children under the age of five. As defined by the World Health Organization, a 15 percent global acute malnutrition rate with aggravating factors, lack of food, health and medical problems, lack of proper water and sanitation, is considered an emergency. 15 percent global acute malnutrition rate in children under five. The rates in Darfur range from 13 to 39. They’re even higher in Eastern Chad. They range from the low 30’s to almost forty. Lack of food, lack of water and sanitation, lack of life-saving emergency health interventions. You put the three of them together and you have the recipe for extremely high mortality rates.
A number of people will say, depending on whose mortality figures you’re looking at right now, is that we’re at the bottom of the trough. Huge numbers of people, as yet unknown, were killed during the conflict as part of the displacement. Nobody knows what they are. USAID is using a number between 80- and 330,000 could be the range. That’s on the public record.
The U.N. is saying between 30- and 50,000. But if we’re at the bottom of the trough, that means a lot of people have died, we hit a period where things have not stabilized but they’ve bottomed out, and we’re now in the middle of a rainy season with lots of stressed people, badly nourished, lacking water and sanitation, inadequate emergency medical health, poor shelter conditions, in concentrated camps where epidemics are likely to be the next thing we see.
We just had significant outbreaks of Hepatitis E. You don’t see that get a lot of publicity. The reason you don’t is it’s very common in emergency situations. The normal sort of crude mortality for Hepatitis E is one percent. It’s been running over two percent in Darfur.
But the critical factor there is the mortality rate in pregnant women can be over 15 percent. And that it is a prime indicator of how bad the water and sanitation situation is, because the load of the bugs to get that sick is higher than just about anything else. You really have to take, ingest a lot of that particular “beastie” to become ill.
So that’s an indicator that’s being watched very closely. It’s an indicator that water and sanitation needs to be focused on, emergency medical activities, vaccination, therapeutic feeding, other things have to be focused on, especially in children under five, and that we have to increase the capacity of the humanitarian relief community, dramatically, to be able to respond out there.
Humanitarian crises are always dealt with at four levels. There’s a political level. The Secretary of State has been to Darfur. The U.N. secretary general has been to Darfur. Members of the United States Congress. European parliamentarians, various European ministers. Representatives from the African Union have been to Darfur. There have been U.N. Security Council resolutions. There will be another one. There is a U.N. plan of action with the government now, that Mr. Jan Pronk is back in Khartoum as the secretary general’s special representative. At the political level this is being dealt with on a consistent basis, on a continual basis, and at the highest levels I’ve seen probably for quite some time.
The next level is the donor level. There was a huge donor conference in Geneva back in June. The U.S. pledged an ungodly amount of money to that particular response. As you can see, we’ve put 192 million in to date, a good 50 million of that is new money, nonfood money since the pledging session in Geneva.
We are preparing our current budgets, supplemental budgets, and next fiscal year budgets to continue to provide assistance from the U.S. Government, both food and nonfood because as Andrew Natsios has said and as the Secretary of State echoed, this is, at a minimum, an 18-month crisis. We have to get people through the immediate crisis, we have to get people home, we have to get people resettled, we have to get them through--they’ve missed one planting and harvest season, they’re going to miss another at a minimum. So we’re looking 18 months out from June.
And we continue to provide significant level of resources. We do that at two levels. At the actual response level in the field in Darfur, there are two kinds of responses. There is a wholesale level and a retail level. The wholesale level is almost always implemented by United Nations agencies, in some cases supplemented by international organizations, International Organization for Migration, groups like that. At the retail level is where you find the vast majority of the nongovernmental organization activities and the specialized international organizations, International Committee for the Red Cross, Red Crescent.
You find, in this instance, a significant donor input at the wholesale level with USAID and our counterpart in the British government, DFID, Department for International Development, providing massive quantities of emergency relief supplies, nonfood emergency relief supplies through a continuous air bridge that we’re running with the United Nations into all three states of Darfur. It is also being coordinated on the ground and implemented on the ground by CARE and WorldVision, two of our NGO relief partners.
The report that I saw first thing Monday morning from our disaster assistance response team stated that as of that date, August 16th, that continued insecurity and the still limited capacity of relief agencies on the ground are the most significant obstacles to saving lives in Darfur. Let me explain. It is still an incredibly insecure environment. We all know there are still GOS military incursions. We know that there are proxies or militia allies, still make incursions and attacks.
We know that if you leave a camp to look for firewood, or to go to market, especially if you’re a woman, you’re at risk. We know [inaudible section] various criminal activity of an undetermined type, on the lines communication, especially the road from Ed Daein to Nyala in south Darfur, and from Nyala up to El Fasher in north Darfur. So much so, that the United Nations is no longer sending food over land by road to south Darfur. They’re routing it all through north Darfur, or via rail.
There have been SLA incidents. They are not entirely blameless in this. They have admitted to hijacking World Food Program trucks and holding the food hostage. They have, on a number of instances, kidnapped and held hostage health workers from the government of Sudan that were involved in the immunization campaigns. They have finally signed some sort of agreement with the U.N. related to allowing World Food Program to do food distributions within those areas under opposition control. There aren’t any lines on a map, they change on a daily basis, and they’re also going to allow UNICEF and the government of Sudan, the ministry of health, to go in and do some vaccinations, which is really needed for children.
Again, this is going to be very difficult, it’s going to take a lot of time, and every day is a new day. What you’ve negotiated, either as a security officer in south Darfur, or MSF down there, who have been really good at this, or ICRC, changes from one day to the next cause you don’t know if you’re going to see the same subcommander on Thursday that you saw on Monday, and you don’t know if they’ve briefed up to their regional commanders.
It’s a very difficult situation. Access into opposition-held areas will potentially increase the burden on the humanitarian relief community. The numbers of displaced and at-need populations will increase at a time when the humanitarian relief community doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the not 1.2 million displaced people--I think we’re going to see in the August report from UNHCR that it’s closer to 1.5. And that doesn’t begin to count all the other affected, war-affected communities out there who are suffering because people that produce food are no longer producing food, so food’s not getting to market, the markets are cut off and trade is affected. So everybody, one way or the other, for the most part, in Darfur, is affected by the conflict.
Our focus in working with the U.N., working with the other donors, working with our NGO partners, has been the five lifesaving sectors. We’re dealing with the nonfood emergency items and shelter through the common air bridge. As we talk to people that we want to fund, if you look at our fact sheet, you see the agencies we’re funding in the U.N. and the kinds of things we’re funding with NGOs are heavily focused--water and sanitation, emergency health, nutrition, and again the sort of activities that support distribution of shelter materials and other emergency nonfood relief items.
That doesn’t mean we’re not doing other things. We have some limited protection activities that have been built into a number of our grants. We are going to do more of those. At a meeting with one of the NGOs who work along with ICRC, and has probably carried the humanitarian response so far, their response, or their cautionary words on protection were “The best thing you can do to protect people in Darfur is to have a very well-funded, very robust, expatriate-heavy humanitarian relief program.”
That came from MSF, who has 160 foreign relief aid workers in Darfur. The latest U.N. report says there are not quite 500 expatriate relief workers in country. Those numbers are dated. It’s probably closer to 550 or 600. We’re getting close to that number; that’s still not enough.
But if, between ICRC and MSF, they’ve got a third of them, something’s wrong. So the focus is build up the capacity of the NGOs, provide them the kind of resources they need to get in, do the job, make sure what they do is expatriate heavy, and make sure they have programs that are focused on those four or five critical sectors, and that at some point their programs will be potable, cause eventually we want people to be able to go home, voluntarily. You have to be able to pick up and plan for those returns and take those emergency relief activities with them, either in advance or as they return to their homes because it’s going to be 18 months. They’ve lost their ability to plant. It’s going to take a while before they are able to reestablish livelihoods, reestablish markets, reestablish a way to make a living in a safe and secure environment.
I’ve probably said enough.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
JERRY FOWLER: All right, Dick, thank you very much. We have time for questions, and I see there are some. I was going to ask a question, but I can wait.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on [inaudible] about getting more expats in there. I wonder what the access has been. A lot of State Department officials have had a hard time [inaudible] monitors, a hard time getting into Darfur. Is the international pressure, particularly the U.N. resolution, having a positive or a negative effect on that opening up access [inaudible]?
RICHARD OWENS: I think it’s had a very positive impact. Before I went out to Khartoum, I was responsible on a weekly basis for working with the U.S. NGOs and compiling the current week’s list of who hadn’t got visas, whose travel permits had been denied, whose vehicles had been hung up in Customs for how many months. That has improved. The improvements are due to bilateral pressure from the U.S. and the U.K. and others, from the European Union.
We have a tendency to forget them. They have been very active, not as active as we would like, especially in the funding realm; but they have been very active diplomatically and in other ways, through U.N., especially the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.
I sat in meetings on a regularly basis in Khartoum, where the government officials would deny that there were any problems, and the UNOCHA people would just not take it. They would get right back in their face. This is a problem. Two weeks ago you said this would be fixed. It hasn’t been fixed and here are three more just like it.
The constant pressure has had an impact. We’ve had a little backsliding over the past couple weeks. A couple NGOs have had some visa issues. We think one of them has been fixed. The other, we don’t think we’re going to be able to fix for a while because it relates to the violence that occurred in Kalma camp over the last few days and is related to that particular NGO. So that’ll take longer to fix but people on the ground are working at it, and at the U.N.
Our charge at the American embassy in Khartoum deals with this every day. When I was there, every day, I had to give him a report and he would talk to people in the government. He would coordinate with the other ambassadors and charges. He would go to the U.N. and they would take this issue on. So it has gotten better. It got better at Khartoum and then it flowed out to the field.
The field is interesting in that there is Darfur but there are three states within Darfur and the relationship between the government authorities, both the local government and the security forces, has been different in every one of the three states.
In West Darfur, Jenina, which is probably in the worst shape in terms of areas cut off due to rainy seasons, because they are at the very, very end of that long logistics chain to get relief supplies and food in, the Wali [governor] and security forces have been relatively easy to deal with.
In north Darfur, it’s on and off again. There have been problems at times. At other times things have gone smoothly. South Darfur, it’s been very bad consistently. That’s where you’ve seen the greatest pressure exerted for what the government calls voluntary returns. That’s where, over the last several weeks, you’ve seen the violence in the camps between IDPs, government provocateurs and government security forces, both in Kalma and Kos. The IDPs have basically said we’re not going to take the intimidation, and they fought back, and unfortunately, over the last week people have died in the camps. That one’s going to be a tough one to crack. The tribal issues seem to be deeper there than in the other two states, and much more closely linked to sort of the political leadership in Nyala, and in the security forces.
That’s a read I get. I’m certainly not an expert on Darfur but that’s what’s coming back from Darfur and from Khartoum. So south Darfur will be much more difficult to deal with, plus you have the security on that long line of communication, that long road between Ed Daein and Nyala, that’s nightmarish.
JERRY FOWLER: Did you have something to add, Fidele?
FIDELE LUMEYA: Well, I think along the same path.
QUESTION: I kind of hear two sides to the story in terms of Fidele, you seem to be saying that the main problem right now is not--obviously there’s a problem with access--but that the main problem is that they’re not getting enough aid, not necessarily that the aid isn’t getting through but that you need more.
I’m certainly not suggesting that the U.S. provide more, but what I hear from Mr. Owens is that it’s primarily you’re seeing more of it as a security issue rather than--and the inability to, you know, kind of get this aid flowing freely than a resources quantity problem.
Can you try and reconcile that a little bit. Would you say it’s both, would you say it’s equal or one is kind of greater than the other at this point? It does seem like access is improving and maybe now that access is improving, you’re realizing that you really don’t have as much as you thought.
RICHARD OWENS: Well, I think this--you know, I probably gave you a false impression. If I did so, I apologize. This is a dramatically underfunded crisis, still, across the board. If you just look at the amount that the U.N. agencies have received, against the consolidated appeal, and you’ll see that.
Having said that it’s underfunded and that we need more resources, you have to be able to effectively utilize resources, and the capacity issue on the part of the NGOs especially, and it doesn’t only affect NGOs. When I was in Khartoum, World Food Program still had vehicles it couldn’t get out of Customs. They’re part of the U.N. That’s not supposed to happen. It does. It’s Khartoum. But the NGOs, other than that small cadre that was already there, MSF, Save The Children UK, I think Save US, to a certain extent, CARE in a limited way, the CRS, Catholic Relief Service’s partners, and a few others, a very few others that were there before the crisis broke. The NGOs then tried to flow in to do the humanitarian assistance, and in response, faced a situation where they’d burn up all their resources and time and effort and energy for months, just trying to get visas, just trying to get travel permits, just trying to get stuff out of Customs, just trying to get out--there’s like an operational tempo, there’s a plan of action for doing this if you’re an NGO.
It varies somewhat from NGO to NGO, but the process is that a problem is identified, you get visas, you get in country, you get out to the field, you look at what needs to be done, you consult with the other players out there, you determine what you’re going to do, you try and resource your program, and then you initiate relief operations.
A good emergency relief NGO can do that in a month or six weeks. Good emergency relief NGOs in Darfur need three months, and more, because of all these constraints that were initially put in their way, plus the fact that that’s the middle of nowhere.
Darfur and Eastern Chad are about as far from anywhere as you can possibly get. My major concern, when I was out there as the DART team leader, was I had people living in dismal conditions, a three and a half hour plane ride away from where I was. When they got sick, and they did, and I had to have them medivaced, that was worrisome. It’s a long way from nowhere.
FIDELE LUMEYA: So I think here you take it as all the constraints together that make this crisis the worst one, and you’ll find that yes, we are not improving with access issues, security issues. Because if we cannot stop the flow of IDPs, the 350 million budget, tomorrow it will be nothing, because you do that based on the number of people you have seen in the camp. If every day, SLM and the government start pushing people, the budget should be increased. This is where we are not pushing the government too much to stop killing or pushing, moving people from their villages to come to IDP camp. So every day that we have a new flow of IDPs increase also the budgets and also increase everything, assistance in the camp.
JERRY FOWLER: You mean to say we’re not pushing the government enough to stop the flow of IDPs?
FIDELE LUMEYA: No. It’s not enough, because what--you know, the government of Sudan, they have 21 years of dealing with IDPs from the south, and that they have largest number in the world, 4 million IDPs. They know how to deal with IDPs in the bad way, how to complicate the international community. How many resolution we have had since the war between north and south, and nothing happened up to last week when people decide that this guy should find a solution. So they know how to mishandle the IDPs crisis. They are not afraid of resolution. They know also the limit of the resolution.
So we need to find another way of pressuring this government who is well-equipped to deal with international community. They know that resolution is a piece of paper that U.N. can just issue and nothing will happen. Now we are all dealing with what will be the best way to deal with the government of Sudan on these issues. We haven’t yet found it. If we come with a resolution, you count more than 20, for 21 years.
QUESTION: Since this was called and focused a lot of the discussion focused on genocide, so I’m curious from the U.S. Government perspective, is there a move toward that, calling it genocide instead of [inaudible]. Does it matter? What’s the stance right now of [inaudible]?
RICHARD OWENS: Well, I think it’s been very much addressed. Nobody in the administration has called this genocide yet. There are those who have dealt with these kinds of issues for many years, inside and outside of the government, that will come down on either side of the issue.
I think Secretary Powell was right when he said--and I’ve been doing this for many years as a relief operator--it doesn’t matter to me what he calls it. I’ve still got to do humanitarian assistance activities. I’ve got to find a way to get resources to NGOs, to U.N. agencies, to have a disaster assistance response team on the ground, that along with the United Nations is out there running interference for them, taking a lot of flak from the government, fighting their battles for them, so they can do what they do best, provide retail level hands-on relief activities. You know, at some point that will come back around, I’m sure, but, you know, that doesn’t come back around at my level.
JERRY FOWLER: One thing I should clarify, what the State Department has said is that they see indicators of genocide. Then they’ve said, as Dick says, that to them, it’s not as important whether it is or isn’t genocide, that it wouldn’t give extra resources, you know, and I think that it is important to emphasize that the U.N. convention on genocide talks about prevention which you could undertake without having found that there is genocide.
QUESTION: You said that after [inaudible] conferences, there’s around $50 million sitting in the pipeline. The sense that I get from reports in the field is that there are quite a lot of NGOs trying to get underway with small groups. This is something you were saying. That you have NGOs with five or six people on the ground, based in Khartoum. The sense that I’m getting, the reports I’m getting is there’s no clear information at this point as to when that money’s going to become directly available to NGOs on the ground, and what I’m hearing is that there’s concept papers being sent, there are proposals that are being submitted, but that these are just sort of floating around and there’s not much response, and there’s just a big question mark.
Everybody hears about big numbers but nobody’s seen the resources actually on the ground. Can you just sort of [inaudible].
RICHARD OWENS: It wasn’t $50 million pipeline. It was $50 million of additional resources actually committed and obligated, nonfood, since the donors conference. That’s a lot. That’s a quarter of AFTA’s annual budget.
The current situation. Over the last couple weeks, we’ve entered into a number of other agreements with NGOs and we’ve put additional resources into the three major players. We’ve continued to work the nonfood pipeline, nonfood emergency relief pipeline, the common air bridge. It costs a lot of money to charter aircraft to carry supplies to Jenina and Nyala, and El Fasher, and that’s exactly what we do. We charter aircraft and put our relief supplies right on the ground, into the hands of the U.N., and to NGOs that are in charge of distributing them on out to the other agencies that actually take them out to camps or other sites.
We have a list of NGOs and U.N. agencies that have submitted proposals or come to us for additional funding. I hope to have a couple more of those out the door, a couple, three of those out the door. It’s August 17th. The U.S. Government works on a fiscal year basis. We’re not telling anybody to stop submitting proposals. You know, a proposal doesn’t get funded overnight anyway. It takes several weeks to actually get one, review one, revise one, put it in the pipeline, get it committed, get the funds committed, and then have everybody sign it up so the money’s obligated and out the door.
Of course we’re giving what we call “Pals” special letters that allow the NGOs to start spending their own resources and then we reimburse them against that on these things, so they can start things up. But what we are saying to the NGOs, and as was said at the State Department yesterday, I’m sorry, Darfur is not amateur hour. If you’re a small NGO without experience in serious complex emergencies, where your people are going to be living in conditions that make Peace Corps look luxurious, if you haven’t done this you better not come to us.
We’re funding the CARE’s and the Catholic Relief’s, Save The Children, the big players, and others of course. We’re funding international NGOs, not just U.S. NGOs. People that have presence, experience, their own resources to augment ours, other donor funding to augment ours, because we have to have quick start-up, full operations, heavy expatriate presence, and you have to be out there for a while cause it’s not going to be a short one.
This isn’t a natural disaster. It doesn’t go away in a month. The same in the fiscal year. The FY05 supplemental in the Defense Appropriations Act is there, it’s been signed, we’re getting ready to have it apportioned out to the agencies, so that we can use it. But I mean, it’s going to take a couple more weeks before we’re going to have a lot more money, but it’s not stopping us from funding anybody right now.
What’s stopped NGOs from, based on my point of view, really doing things the way they should--and I’ve been very critical of a lot of the NGOs, I’ll be frank about it--is the fact that to a certain extent some of the NGO community has tried to mainstream emergency response. They’re basically development organizations, a lot of them, and so they’ve maintained emergency response, you have a development program, you have people crosstrained. When an emergency occurs, you can flow out of that. You take a sort of sustainable development approach or a developmental relief approach, it’s something we look at in USAID as well, and most times it works. It’s not working on this one.
The organizations that have hit the ground running and done the best job in Darfur are pure, hard core emergency relief agencies. The ICRCs, the MSFs. OXFAM’s finally getting its act together. They had problems. OXFAM had serious problems out there and they’re the best in the business at water and sanitation. It’s hard.
JERRY FOWLER: One final question I had is the AID published a mortality projection at the beginning of April, and that’s the source of a lot of the numbers, expecting 350,000 deaths. From your perspective, is the situation tracking those estimates? Do you consider that to still to be an accurate projection of both what is happening now and what’s going to happen in the future?
RICHARD OWENS: Yes, because it was a range. Depending on the situation, over time, we looked at a range of from 80- to 330, I think were the numbers that were in that chart. Staff from USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reviewed that last week through today, they reported out. They’re still tracking it. They don’t see any need at this point to revise it. And then we had a teleconference this morning with the World Health Organization in Geneva and talked that over, because they’re about to launch a mortality study, the first significant mortality study in Darfur, that we have problems with.
JERRY FOWLER: You have problems with their methodology?
RICHARD OWENS: We have problems, not with their methodology. Again I apologize, I stated that badly. We have problems with some of the constraints and restrictions that the government of Sudan has placed on the World Health Organization for the mortality study in Darfur.
If you’re into these kinds of things, one of the things that you do in a mortality study is you have something called the recall period. It’s the period back in time you go to look at mortality. The government is restricting them to a two-month recall period. Most of the violence occurred when? Now a two month recall period with a good methodology, and CDC has looked at this with WHO, and their methodology is rock solid, that they put forward, is probably a good start right now because it will give them a better fix on actual mortality and morbidity rates, because the reporting from the three states in Darfur right now is very spotty and inconsistent. A lot of NGOs that are doing health, doing nutrition, where you report mortality, didn’t do the baselines you would normally do because the situation was so bad, that they just jumped into full, or attempted to jump into full implementation mode.
So the kind of reporting that would normally be done at a health post or a supplementary feeding station or a therapeutic feeding center have been missed, and so WHO’s concerned, they want to fix that, so they want to go with this one, it’s an important study, it will have a good result, I am sure. But it will be limited in its value. So WHO’s going to look at a way they can sort a change the process, so that they can go on, make this a continuous set of mortality studies and then reach back and get the bigger picture. Go back to January. That will be hard. It’s hard to interview people in camps who have lost half their family, six months ago, and get information sometimes.
JERRY FOWLER: Fidele, did you have any final words?
FIDELE LUMEYA: I want to thank you.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, thank you, and I thank everyone for coming, and please join me in thanking Fidele and Dick.