Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 8 March 2006

Darfur faces "perfect storm" of human destruction

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As Rainy Season Nears, Darfur Faces "Perfect Storm" of Human Destruction; Collapsing security, funding shortfalls, humanitarian evacuations, growing violence in Chad, looming war in Eastern Sudan---and political dithering by international community

By Eric Reeves

March 7, 2006 — The Economist (UK) began a recent news analysis with an appropriately blunt question:

"The mayhem in Darfur, in western Sudan, where some 400,000 people may have been killed and 2 million-plus displaced, is worsening. The misery is spreading west into neighbouring Chad, unhinging that country and threatening a proxy war with Sudan. What can be done?" ("Chaos in western Sudan is threatening to engulf neighboring Chad" [dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], The Economist, March 2, 2006).

Obscenely, the question posed ("what can be done?") has only answers increasingly attenuated by circumstances on the ground. "What can be done" to halt ongoing genocide by attrition---given the widespread and conspicuous failure of international will to date---is increasingly little. Darfur is poised to see a season of death like no other in this three-year catastrophe. Having dithered, delayed, postured, and obfuscated for so long, the international community has now simply run out of time. The most urgent of currently contemplated responses simply cannot halt the cascade of deadly effects rippling across the brutalized terrain of Darfur. Huge numbers will die in the coming rainy season, especially children under five (the rainy season runs from June to September, with July, August, and September typically the months of heaviest rains). Indeed, there are already signs of increased mortality, as well as morbidity and malnutrition that are harbingers of accelerating mortality rates.

A recent overview from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs offers an unsparing assessment of curent trends. The prosaically entitled "Preliminary analysis of the impact of reduced access and funding shortages on humanitarian activities" (February 2006) forces upon us a terrifying vision of the likely consequences---near- to medium-term---of the ongoing contraction of humanitarian delivery, access, and resources. A highlighted selection of conclusions from this important assessment appears below.

ABANDONMENT

Even as evidence mounts daily of a dramatic re-escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, there is---in a terrible inverse ratio---less and less evidence of a willingness by the international community to mount the humanitarian intervention that might protect humanitarian operations and acutely vulnerable civilians. The UN currently estimates that the conflict-affected population in Darfur is over 3.6 million. The affected population in eastern Chad (220,000 refugees according to the UN High Commission for Refugees, and at least 100,000 Chadian civilians) may approach 400,000. In short, the lives of some 4 million human beings are at stake in the greater Darfur/eastern Chad humanitarian arena, and yet humanitarian access continues to diminish because of insecurity, operations remain suspended, humanitarian personnel are increasingly evacuated or withdrawn permanently---and funding shortfalls are starting to bite deeply into humanitarian capacity and supplies. Untenably expensive stop-gap transport measures that have been in place for months will in many cases end soon, with extraordinarily destructive consequences.

Despite the posturing words of President Bush on a significant NATO role for a Darfur mission, NATO officials in Europe speak only of a highly limited commitment. Where Bush spoke glibly of "a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security" (New York Times, February 17, 2006), NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer yesterday,

"ruled out [ ] sending troops from the western military alliance to Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur province. De Hoop Scheffer said he believed that NATO could help in the region during the transition phase from an African Union operation to one led by the UN but only with a clear UN mandate. ’Then we can discuss a NATO role, which I do see in the enabling sphere and not the boots of troops on the ground,’ he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU defence ministers in Innsbruck, Austria." (Agence France Presse, March 6, 2006)

Even last month, at the time that Bush made his apparently unscripted remarks about "NATO stewardship" (clearly offered without securing sufficient background assessment of political realities from either the State Department, the Pentagon, or Brussels), there was an immediate backing off by various US officials. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter declared that it is "’premature to speculate’ on potential increases in US troops" (Washington Post, February 17, 2006). Several day prior, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, following a February 13, 2006 meeting between Bush and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, declared: "’It’s really premature to speculate about what the needs would be in terms of logistics, in terms of airlift, in terms of actual troops. And certainly in that regard, premature to speculate on what the US contribution might be’" (Reuters, February 13, 2006).

Privately, Bush administration officials make clear there was never any intention of committing US or NATO troops---nor any belief in the moral and contractual obligation (per the terms of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) to halt massive, ongoing genocidal destruction by all necessary means. For their part, NATO officials in Brussels had fully anticipated yesterday’s comments by de Hoop Scheffer:

"NATO allies would look kindly on new appeals for back-up help to African troops in Sudan’s violent Darfur region, but rule out for now a major deployment of their own, NATO diplomats said on Tuesday [February 14, 2006]." (Reuters [dateline: Brussels], February 14, 2006)

"’The focus [of NATO] is more about extending our support role in the transition from an AU to a blue helmet (UN) force,’ said the diplomat, who requested anonymity."

The key word from both Brussels and Washington is "premature"---it is "premature" to plan in significant ways for a Darfur mission, or to make specific commitments of military, logistical, transport, and intelligence resources for any such mission. This convenient sense of the "premature" ensures that security for all humanitarian operations and all vulnerable civilians in Darfur will, for the foreseeable future, be provided exclusively by the African Union monitoring mission. To be sure, there has recently been a good deal of talk about a "transition" from an AU mission to a UN ("blue-hatted") mission. But this would take many months to achieve; indeed, some within the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations have asserted such a mission could not be fully deployed until January 2007.

But even this "transition" to a UN force is increasingly doubtful. Khartoum---fully convinced that there is no stomach for humanitarian intervention by the militarily capable powers that Kofi Annan futilely and belatedly continues to call upon---has moved into a mode of full obstruction. Though the AU committed in January 2006 ("in principle") to a UN takeover, the meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council that was to have ratified this decision on March 3, 2006 has been delayed for at least a week, and perhaps longer. The reasons are clear. Khartoum’s genocidaires sense that they can convince the AU leadership to back away from a hand-over of the Darfur mission to the UN, thereby securing the continued exclusive presence of an AU force without the minimally necessary manpower, equipment, intelligence capability, logistics, transport capacity, or administrative ability. Most crucially, the AU is without an appropriate mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection.

One measure of Khartoum’s determination to forestall a move to a UN mission in Darfur is the reported threat by the National Islamic Front regime to withdraw from the AU in the event of such a move (Reuters, March 5, 2006 [citing a report from the highly reliable Sudan Tribune]). Even as Khartoum is issuing this threat, Egypt is lobbying hard in the international press, insisting that any UN mission in Darfur must have Khartoum’s approval, even as Egypt knows that such insistence only encourages Khartoum to say "no" to the UN:

"Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday [March 1, 2006] that the Sudanese government must approve the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in conflict-wracked Darfur." (Associated Press [dateline: Cairo], March 1, 2006)

This comes as Khartoum reiterates, ever more stridently, its objection to a UN presence in Darfur:

"Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir repeated his country’s refusal to allow any UN-led troop intervention in strife-torn Darfur, but still insisted Khartoum was committed to working with the world community. ’We are opposed to foreign intervention in Darfur although we remain committed to cooperation with the international community," Beshir told a military ceremony. Beshir once more described plans for the UN to take over security responsibility from the AU as ’dangerous’ and called on the world to be aware of ’the need for respecting the peoples’ sovereignty." (Agence France Presse [dateline: Khartoum], March 4, 2006)

It was precisely such claims of "national sovereignty" in the face of "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity" that were to lose all force with the unanimous approval at the UN World Summit (September 2005) of an international "responsibility to protect" civilians whose governments will not. Like so much international posturing on Darfur, the notion of a "responsibility to protect" has succumbed all too easily before Khartoum’s patient obduracy. The regime’s genocidaires are well aware that the record of the international community in protecting vulnerable civilians, simply because they are vulnerable civilians, is exceedingly poor.

It is now painfully easy to survey the meaningless volubility of the international community on a "responsibility to protect" civilians in Darfur, thanks to an important new resource from the Coalition for International Justice: a 387-page "Chronology of Reporting on Events Concerning the Conflict in Darfur, Sudan" (February 2006, http://www.cij.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=homepage). This massive assemblage of data, determinations, and statements offers countless examples not simply of Khartoum’s relentless mendacity and its campaign of deliberate misinformation, but also of ill-informed, disingenuous, and spineless declarations by Western leaders nominally engaged on Darfur.

For example, then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared in August 2004 that "international pressure will continue to increase until Khartoum moves decisively against the Janjaweed" (Agence France Presse, August 5, 2004). More than a year and a half later, Khartoum has failed to "move decisively," or indeed in any fashion whatsoever---yet there has been no increased pressure. Indeed, the highly limited sanctions provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005) have failed to be implemented in a single case, even as a UN panel of experts has identified numerous senior NIF officials as obstacles to peace---and Human Rights Watch has authoritatively identified these same officials, as well as President Omar el-Bashir and Vice President Ali Osman Taha, as continuing to direct, recruit, and support the Janjaweed.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pompously declared the same month that, "The last thing we want to be in the international community is in conflict with the government of Sudan, but we do have clear responsibilities to the UN charter to ensure that this kind of humanitarian disaster is averted" (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 24, 2004). Of course the "humanitarian disaster" has been neither averted nor ended, and gives every sign of rapid acceleration in the months ahead. So much for a UK "responsibility to the UN charter."

The "Darfur Chronology" from the Coalition for International Justice makes clear just how little conviction inheres within the statements that have served as the primary international political response to Darfur.

HUMANITARIAN PROSPECTS

An excellent dispatch by Foreign Correspondent Dan Morrison of the San Francisco Chronicle (dateline: Nyala, South Darfur, March 5, 2006) offers a compelling overview of humanitarian prospects in Darfur:

"Soon the Otash [displaced persons camp] warehouses---and dozens like them across Darfur---will be empty, leaving as many as 2.8 million people at risk of malnutrition and disease, officials say. ’We have food up to the middle of March. After that, the pipeline is dry,’ said Carlos Veloso, the UN World Food Program’s emergency coordinator for Darfur. ’I cannot feed people with good intentions.’"

The reduction in funding for the vast Darfur humanitarian crisis is all too accurately rendered:

"While the delivery of all manner of humanitarian aid to Sudan’s western region has been restricted by an increasing lack of security, the largest threat to Darfur’s legions of dispossessed may come from sharpened budget axes in Washington and Europe. Once flush with funds intended to mitigate the widespread ethnic cleansing in Darfur, aid agencies at work in the region face large cuts in everything from food aid to sanitation to health care to education, even as the number of people pushed into displaced-person camps continues to grow. US government assistance to Darfur, excluding food aid, was $113 million last year. The 2006 budget is $40 million. ’The huge humanitarian monster has been left very hungry in Darfur,’ said Jonathan Veitch, a UNICEF coordinator in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital." [ ]

"The humanitarian funding cuts are being felt just as the Darfur conflict---and its now-familiar tales of murder, rape and theft---has pushed deeper into neighboring Chad, provoking yet another refugee crisis, officials say. In Sudan, more than 70,000 people have been displaced in recent months by renewed fighting between the government and Darfurian rebels, proliferating banditry and continuing Janjaweed attacks. ’We’re praying for a supplemental’ budget increase from Congress, said one US official in Sudan who didn’t want to comment publicly on the Bush administration’s budget priorities."

The consequences of Congressional failure to provide supplemental funding for humanitarian assistance in Darfur would be disastrous (we should bear in mind Congress recently failed to appropriate $50 million for the AU mission in Darfur---far from a suitable force, but almost certainly the only form of civilian protection for the foreseeable future):

"In Darfur, UN warehouses are expected to run out just as the annual ’hunger season,’ when locally grown food stocks are depleted, begins. Worse, aid officials should have begun trucking grain, cooking oil and other supplies to distant bases before the rainy season destroys many of the dirt roads both in Darfur and in southern Sudan [ ]. If the food can’t reach these communities by road, it will have to be dropped by parachute---’very inefficient,’ Veloso said. One airdrop costs as much as five truckloads of food, contains less grain than a single truck, and is dependent on such factors as access to jet fuel, weather and availability of aircraft."

"Humanitarian officials and foreign diplomats in Sudan say they fear that reduced budgets and growing insecurity will force them to concentrate their efforts on Darfur’s 2 million camp residents while cutting food deliveries and other aid to more than 1 million people who still live in rural areas. That could provoke further migration to Darfur’s swollen refugee camps---desettlement instead of resettlement."

The dispatch concludes with a grim retrospective moment:

"In the spring of 2004, as the assaults on Darfur’s non-Arab population reached their height, ’donor countries saw camps as the best way to protect the civilian population,’ [UNICEF coordinator] Veitch said. ’They cannot walk away from the table now.’"

But just as Western countries and other international actors have "walked away" from previously uttered commitments, so it is clear that humanitarian assistance is in the gruesome process of contracting significantly throughout Darfur. The consequences are laid out in "Preliminary analysis of the impact of reduced access and funding shortages on humanitarian activities" (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA], February 2006). Key conclusions concerning Darfur:

"Should issues related to access, insecurity, funding shortages, and limited Government of Sudan cooperation continue, parts of the ongoing humanitarian operations would become unsustainable or impossible. This would in turn increase the risk of losing some of the huge gains made in 2004 and 2005 in Darfur."

For Darfur as a whole, "the deteriorating environment has already affected the [primary health] sector: access to primary health care has dropped below the emergency threshold in 2006 [i.e., is headed in the wrong direction---ER]."

"Should the current scenario persist, the risk of disease would increase (malaria, diarrheal diseases, and measles). Humanitarian support facilities such as access to drinking water, sanitation, and food for the rising population numbers are key factors having a direct impact on the health status of the population."

The OCHA report highlights maternal mortality risks, the low rates of antenatal and postnatal care, as well as the declining provision of medical supplies, including "cold chain items" (e.g., vaccinations): "Ceasing this support would further impact upon the health and well-being of about half a million under-five children in Darfur, potentially leading to a dramatic increase in the incidence of communicable diseases and an increased morbidity rate." In Darfur, increases in morbidity rates among young children inevitably produce an increase in mortality rates.

The distribution of critical non-food items (NFI) (medicine, but also shelter, blankets, mosquito-netting, soap, water purification supplies) is critically imperiled:

"Increased insecurity and difficulties in access has resulted in difficulties in management of the NFI pipeline as well as a reduction in NFI" (only 20% of the December 2005 total reached West Darfur in January 2006). The humanitarian organization CARE manages the common NFI pipeline for West Darfur: "If the situation further deteriorates, CARE would be obliged to stop operations, and distribution from the common NFI pipeline will stop in West Darfur. The decreased distribution of NFI’s will have life-threatening consequences."

Looking forward to humanitarian capacity for 2006, the OCHA report notes that, "if current trends continue, new displacement in 2006 will far exceed [current] planning figures. In January alone, 60,000 newly displaced people in the Mershing areas needed NFI---one-fourth of the entire planned number for 2006."

"Supplementary Feeding Programs and Therapeutic Feeding Programs are being supported by UNICEF [ ]. Key nutritional supplies will be sufficient for only another three months. Discontinuation of supplementary/therapeutic feeding activities will have a direct impact on the nutritional status of the population, directly resulting in an increase in malnutrition rates and mortality in children."

In another critical sector, water and sanitation, OCHA reports:

"To date a number of [nongovernmental humanitarian organizations] have either closed or scaled down their operations due to insecurity, reduced funding, and restriction on access [ ]."

Reductions in funding could see "an estimated 1 million displaced persons and conflict-affected people, most of whom are children, suffer from deteriorating sanitation conditions and increasingly limited access to safe drinking water."

On security conditions for civilians, OCHA reports:

"Protection incidents in and around the camps around el-Geneina have become more violent; the presence of armed men in the camps [janjaweed] at all times of day is an increasing concern."

"The protection situation in many Internally Displaced Camps and rural areas alike has deteriorated in recent months, including even in some camps and areas [where there is humanitarian presence]."

"Prolonged displacement as well as new waves of displacements toward major IDP camps, and the influx of refugees and asylum seekers coming into Sudan from Chad is also likely to increase tensions between IDPs, between IDPs and their host population, and IDPs and local authorities in major camps."

"There are also concerns about the possibility of population movements from rural areas to IDP camps, especially those close to urban centers, in order to receive assistance should food distributions be reduced in rural areas."

In fact, the effect of ongoing life in camps for displaced persons is to make it increasingly likely that they will never leave, whether conflict ends or not; many of these people have already taken the first steps in a drift toward permanent life in the ghastly, ramshackle "suburbs" of the various larger towns in Darfur. This ensures that agricultural production for the province as a whole will remain badly compromised for the foreseeable future. Ongoing food security for the entire Darfuri population, Arab and non-Arab tribal groups, will inevitably be compromised as well.

KHARTOUM’S WAR ON HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

In Chad the consequences of violent insecurity are having devastating effects on the civilian populations. Tens of thousands of Chadians have been forced to flee the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed onslaught in the eastern border region of this desperately poor country. The UN Sudan Situation Report of March 2, 2006 reports that "some 10,000 Chadian refugees, predominantly women and children, are now congregated near Gelu (north of el-Geneina on the Chadian border)." This is only one location.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reports today from the Chad/Darfur border on the ongoing civilian slaughter (this is his sixth trip to the region):

"What is happening here [along the Chad/Darfur border] is more like what happens in a stockyard. Militias backed by Sudan race on camels and pickup trucks into Chadian villages and use machine guns to mow down farming families, whose only offense is that they belong to the wrong tribes and have black skin. I found it eerie to drive on the dirt track along the border because countless villages have been torched or abandoned. Many tens of thousands of peasants have fled their villages, and you can drive for mile after mile and see no sign of life---except for the smoke of the villages or fields being burned by the Sudan-armed janjaweed militia."

Inevitably, there are humanitarian consequences to the violence that Khartoum has deliberately loosed and supported in Chad (there is indisputable evidence that Khartoum’s regular military forces, including helicopter gunships, have deployed in support of Janjaweed attacks in Darfur; see by Human Rights Watch "Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad," February 2006, http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/chad0206/).

Kristof reports:

"These areas are too insecure for the United Nations and most international aid workers, who are already doing a heroic and dangerous job in Darfur and Chad. So Mr. Ali and others left behind get no food aid and go hungry."

The number of civilians beyond humanitarian reach is growing extremely rapidly in Chad, with little chance that humanitarian operations can increase rapidly enough before the rainy season. Transport from the west (Abeche) is extremely difficult in the best of times, and virtually impossible when the rains come. Human mortality will be staggering during this rapidly approaching period, which largely coincides with the traditional "hunger gap" between spring planting and fall harvest.

The same atrocities that have been reported from Darfur for the past three years, and longer, are now being authoritatively reported by human rights groups, the UN High Commission for Refugees, and the intrepid Kristof:

"One young man, Haroun Ismael, returned with me---very nervously---to the edge of his village of Karmadodo, between the towns of Adr� and Ad�. Eleven days earlier, Sudanese military aircraft and a force of several hundred janjaweed had suddenly attacked the village. Mr. Haroun and his wife had run for their lives, with his wife carrying their 3-month-old baby, Ahmed.
The janjaweed raiders overtook Mr. Haroun’s wife and beat her so badly that she is still unconscious. They also grabbed Ahmed from her arms. ’They looked at the baby,’ Mr. Haroun added, ’and since he was a boy, they shot him.’" (New York Times [dateline: Chad/Darfur border], March 7, 2006)

Such atrocities, and the ongoing genocidal destruction within Darfur, provide the appropriate context in which to consider the implications of Khartoum’s demand, reported yesterday by Reuters, that one of only two operational international humanitarian organizations in Eastern Sudan end its life-saving efforts (in Eastern Sudan, the next Sudanese insurgency is on the verge of exploding, with Khartoum’s military forces poised to inflict massive destruction on civilians near the main transport corridors and the critical oil export pipeline):

"Sudan has expelled one of two international aid groups that provide food and medicine to 45,000 people in the east of the country, Eastern Front rebels who control the affected region said on Monday. In a written statement to journalists in neighbouring Eritrea, where the Eastern Front is based, the rebel group said it had received formal notice that the International Rescue Committee was suspending activities in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Sudan."

"In a letter shown to journalists by the Eastern Front, the IRC said that Khartoum had ordered the organisation to suspend its humanitarian activities in the region. ’This sudden move creates a humanitarian disaster for the 45,000 people directly benefiting from the health, education, veterinary, water and local-capacity building programmes of IRC,’ the rebel statement said.
No reason was given for the expulsion and officials at Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Ministry declined to comment." (Reuters [dateline: Asmara, Eritrea], March 5, 2006)

The Associated Press reported on the same story the previous day:

"The Beja area is one of Sudan’s least developed and most neglected. Poverty-related illnesses, including tuberculosis, are common and illiteracy is a major problem. The International Rescue Committee and Samaritan Purse are the only international charity groups providing food aid, basic health care, vaccination, safe drinking water and education services as well as training midwives in an effort to curb high rates of deaths during childbirth in the region."

"[A European Union] official said Sudan’s government expelled the aid agencies from the region possibly because it thought it could get away with the move because the international community is preoccupied with the conflict in the country’s western Darfur region." (Associated Press [dateline: Asmara, Eritrea], March 5, 2006).

The brutality reflected in Khartoum’s decision to evict the distinguished International Rescue Committee and end its humanitarian assistance to these people is of a piece with the brutality that daily defines Khartoum’s ongoing efforts to obstruct, impede, and harass humanitarian workers and operations in Darfur. UN officials, humanitarian officials, human rights organizations, and news reporters have continuously chronicled efforts by the National Islamic Front regime---both in Khartoum and in Darfur---to subject humanitarian workers and operations to a steady attrition, thereby reducing overall assistance both quantitatively and qualitatively. The OCHA report finds that:

"the cooperation level of the Government [of Sudan] with the humanitarian partners, including facilitation of access and provision of assistance has declined [NB: "declined"---ER]. UN and NGOs [nongovernmental humanitarian organizations] alike are experiencing an increased in harassment episodes and increasing ’administrative’ difficulties in carrying out programs. The Government of Sudan increased restrictions on NGOs with regard to obtaining travel permits, entry/exit visas, customs issues; and hiring restrictions are limiting the operational capacity of NGOs."

We have seen this weapon of war deployed repeatedly by the NIF in the past---in the Nuba Mountains (a humanitarian embargo of more than a decade was imposed beginning in 1992) and in the south. The terrible Bahr el-Ghazal famine of 1998---superbly chronicled by Human Rights Watch ("Famine in Sudan, 1998," http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/sudan/)---had NIF obstruction of humanitarian food aid as its primary cause. This writer reported on a subsequent assault on humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan in the summer of 2002:

"The number is so shockingly large as to defy casual comprehension. We must exercise both moral and statistical imagination to understand the evil represented: 1.7 million human beings, the most recent UN estimate for people in southern Sudan deliberately being denied humanitarian aid by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime. Such denial of food and medical assistance, given the distressed condition of so many of these people, is nothing less than a terribly crude but equally effective ’weapon of mass destruction.’" (The Washington Post, July 6, 2002):

Khartoum’s actions in southern Sudan, the Nuba, and now Eastern Sudan gives us our best understanding of the current war of attrition against humanitarian assistance in Darfur. But though such understanding is readily attainable, it remains nonetheless inconsequential for those who have the power to protect the integrity of humanitarian operations and the safety of humanitarian workers. In turn, the vast civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance (again, in the range of 4 million for Darfur and eastern Chad) faces the prospect of steadily diminishing aid.

Let us be fully clear about what this failure to act means. Hundreds of thousands of Darfuris will eventually die because of actions not taken now. The will die from violence, from disease, and from relentlessly increasing malnutrition. Their deaths will include what epidemiologists refer to as "deferred mortality," the deaths that have their ultimate etiology in conflict and prior deprivation but which may take years to occur. Most of those who die in the next year are likely to be the most vulnerable of the vulnerable: children under five years of age. But women, older children, and the elderly will also be disproportionately represented in the vast unrecorded ranks of names.

There can be no doubting the implications of the OCHA report, its grim assessment, suggesting---if not actually estimating---that human mortality will increase in ways that may well make genocide in Darfur more destructive of human life than the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Over 400,000 people have already died, and the dying continues. And still the readily predictable acceleration of mortality rates throughout Darfur doesn’t matter enough.

Most bluntly, the lives of people in Darfur don’t matter enough: these human beings have been judged insufficiently valuable, unworthy of the resources required to provide them with adequate humanitarian relief and protection.

This is the real meaning of the world’s recently embraced doctrine of a "responsibility to protect."

- Eric Reeves
- Smith College
- Northampton, MA 01063
- Email : ereeves@smith.edu
- Tel: 413-585-3326
Website: www.sudanreeves.org



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