Twenty villages/communities throughout Northern, Western and Southern Darfur were assessed. The situation assessed in the survey was found to be alarming as coping mechanisms developed over years of drought and conflict had been nearly exhausted.
Most of the rural communities assessed were found by the survey to be suffering from food shortages, which are expected to become worse in the longer term. On average, the communities had planted less than one third of the usual crop areas. Yields are likely to be severely affected by drought in certain parts of the country. Levels of physical insecurity were found to be the main cause of food shortages as people are reluctant to venture outside their villages for fear of attack and so cannot reach their fields. No obvious differences were detected between Northern, Western and Southern Darfur.
Resident rural communities were seen to be spending most of their resources on buying food. In many cases, wild food constituted the bulk of the diet for communities not receiving humanitarian food assistance.
The current food gap may diminish somewhat by November/December 2004 if communities gain physical access to their plots for harvesting. This will depend on the general level of security. However, in any case harvests will not be abundant and most of the limited yields of staple crops harvested by rural communities will have been consumed by January/February 2005 in the case of Western Darfur and March/April 2005 in Northern and Southern Darfur. The resulting food gap will last until the next harvest at the end of 2005.
Farmers, pastoralists and nomads have also suffered large livestock losses as a result of the conflict. The exact figures are difficult to estimate at this time.
The disruption of traditional migration routes and the inaccessibility of vast grazing areas will jeopardize livestock production over the medium term. Most herds in Darfur were seen to be migrating southwards in search of safety, whereas they should have been moving north at this time of the year. Livestock mortality rates had increased as a result of overcrowding and the security situation, which prevented veterinary personnel and vaccines from reaching many areas.
The present report’s findings validate the ICRC's current food-assistance strategy, which aims to help residents and returnees in rural areas in particular, in a bid to prevent further migration, in search of assistance, towards urban centres, displaced persons'camps or Chad.
The ICRC urges all parties to the conflict to take appropriate measures to protect the civilian population from the effects of hostilities and to prevent further deterioration of the already alarming food situation in Darfur. Insecurity is the root cause of the collapse of agriculture, pastoralism and trade in Darfur. It is essential that all parties to the conflict abide by their obligation to protect the lives and physical integrity of the civilian population by providing security and facilitating the free and safe movement of persons, livestock and goods so as to preserve essential economic activities.