«Annex III: Darfur Mortality August 2010 Eric Reeves Madeline Zehnder, research and editing Preface Along with the question of how to characterize the ...»
COMPROMISING WITH EVIL
An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012
Annex III: Darfur Mortality
Madeline Zehnder, research and editing
Along with the question of how to characterize the ethnically-targeted violence in
Darfur, debate about accurate human mortality totals has proved unusually contentious. As one who took part in this debate from the beginning (January 2004
marked the ﬁrst of my mortality analyses), I have watched in dismay as claims and counter-claims, computations and re-computations have increased vagueness surrounding this issue. Most news sources, for example, still cite an April 2008 offthe-cuff approximation by then UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes: 300,000 dead. As Holmes himself acknowledges, this ﬁgure was essentially a crude extrapolation from previous UN ﬁgures, which were themselves only partial in their representation.
Certainly this in itself is a terrifyingly high number, but as I argue in this lengthy mortality study, it understates total mortality as of August 2010 by approximately 200,000 human beings—people who have simply been statistically elided from the genocidal realities of Darfur.
Serious scholars, including epidemiologists and those with statistical training, have made various attempts to arrive at a more accurate estimate, although the last assessment occurred in 2010. The Khartoum regime has often obstructed the release of data for both malnutrition and mortality in the region. New data became extremely scarce after the March 2009 expulsion of international humanitarian organizations, and remaining groups feared subsequent expulsions if they conveyed statistical realities. “Darfurian Voices” is the exception: they found that 72 percent of Darfuri refugees in a population of approximately 250,000 had one or more (up to ten) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.”1 These and other data permitted reasonable extrapolation for the number of violent deaths in Darfur itself—the most contentious ﬁgure in the debate over total mortality. Total morality for the Darfur conﬂict is the number of people in Darfur and eastern Chad who have died from war-related causes such as violence and the consequent displacement leading to dehydration, malnutrition, and disease since February 2003.
Unfortunately, much commentary on mortality is highly politicized. Mahmood Mamdani’s Saviors and Survivors is one example, as is Khartoum’s untrue claim that “only 10,000 have died" during the course of the violence. The most recent serious mortality study prior to the one included in this Annex is one authored in January 2010 by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED) in Belgium. Although I accept many of the authors’ ﬁndings, and make use of their extraordinary data bank, I ﬁnd their key assumption about early violent mortality (2003–04) untenable in light of substantial contextual information about the scale and nature of violence during this period. This information is omitted from CRED’s account, leading to a serious understatement of the total for violent mortality. I queried one of the authors of the study at conference on Darfur, but received no satisfactory answer to the questions and objections I raise here.
That no signiﬁcant mortality study appeared after August 2010 speaks volumes about Khartoum’s success in sealing Darfur off from the eyes of the international community. Deaths nonetheless continue at well above the normal Crude Mortality Rate for the region: high levels of malnutrition, reports from Radio Dabanga of violent attacks, and accounts from independent experts and relief workers on the ground make clear that violence and disease continue to claim large numbers of lives.
Darfur Mortality In the late summer of 2004, during the most violently destructive phase of the Darfur genocide, the US State Department commissioned the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) to oversee a systematic interviewing of Darfuri refugees who had ﬂed to eastern Chad. It was on the basis of the report that emerged from these interviews (“Documenting Atrocities in Darfur”) that Secretary of State Colin Powell made his September 2004 determination that genocide was being committed in Darfur. The personnel conducting the research included human rights experts, law enforcement ofﬁcials, genocide scholars, forensic experts, and those with signiﬁcant experience in the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. They were provided with ample resources, including a full complement of translators.
On the basis of 1,136 carefully randomized interviews, conducted among the Darfuri refugee population in Chad at 19 camp locations along the border, the CIJ found that “sixty-one percent [of those interviewed] reported witnessing the killing of a family member.” Only a few among those who purported to speak about levels of mortality in Darfur registered the implications of this extraordinary ﬁgure.
My own efforts to extrapolate this data (ﬁrst in fall 2004) were followed by those of Professors John Hagan and Patricia Parker (April 2005, commissioned by the Coalition for International Justice) and by Dr. Jan Coebergh, an independent researcher. All three of these researchers yielded comparable results using different statistical methodologies.
Because “Documenting Atrocities in Darfur” was not speciﬁcally designed as a mortality study, its consequential ﬁndings were dismissed by professional epidemiologists, who in nearly all cases lacked contextual understanding of the Darfur conﬂict. The US Government Accounting Ofﬁce similarly dismissed the data and reports utilizing it. My own ﬁnding was that by the beginning of 2005, 215,000 people had been killed (this based primarily on CIJ data) and that another 200,000 had died as a result of disease and malnutrition directly consequent upon ethnicallytargeted violence.2 Total mortality, I argued, was over 400,000—this being the ﬁgure that Hagan and Parker arrived at several months later, though making assumptions that I believe worked to understate violent morality and overstate mortality from disease and malnutrition.
There have been no subsequent mortality studies using the CIJ mortality data. In July 2010, however, a report entitled “Darfurian Voices” corroborated and ampliﬁed the CIJ data. The report indicates that 72% of Darfuri refugees in a population of approximately 250,000 had one or more (up to ten) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.”3 What are the statistical implications of these ﬁgures?4 Let us assume, for clarity in treating percentage data, 100 respondents (the actual number of respondents was approximately 1,250 (see Appendix 1a for details on collecting this population data). Let us assume as well a rather large average immediate family size of 10 (see Appendix 2), so that the 100 respondents represent a total statistical cohort of 100 families or 1,000 refugees. Finally, let us assume no duplication in family representation in the survey, an assumption warranted by the statistical methodology of the survey.
[Speciﬁc percentage values here are from the bar graph on page 14 of “Darfurian
Voices,” rounded to nearest percentage integer]:
Percentage of 100 families who experienced “x deaths” per immediate family:
0 deaths 28% = ( 0 deaths within the statistical cohort of 1000) 1 death 20% = (20 deaths within the statistical cohort) (1 x 20) 2 deaths 16% = (32 deaths within the statistical cohort) (2 x 16) 3 deaths 12% = (36 deaths within the statistical cohort) (3 x 12) 4 deaths 8% = (32 deaths within the statistical cohort) (4 x 8) 5 deaths 5% = (25 deaths within the statistical cohort) (5 x 5) 6 deaths 3% = (18 deaths within the statistical cohort) (6 x 3) 7 deaths 3% = (21 deaths within the statistical cohort) (7 x 3) 8 deaths 2% = (16 deaths within the statistical cohort) (8 x 2) 9 deaths 1% = (9 deaths within the statistical cohort) (9 x 1) 10 deaths 2% = (20 deaths within the statistical cohort) (10 x 2) 100% of 229 total deaths within the statistical cohort 100 families (1,000 refugees) The statistics represented here in simpliﬁed form are derived from approximately 1,250 interviews of persons 18 years of age and older residing in eight of the twelve ofﬁcial Darfur refugee camps (see Appendix 1c). The report uses a “stratiﬁed random sampling approach,” and the survey ﬁelded a full complement of translators speaking Arabic as well as Fur, Massalit, Zaghawa, and other African languages.5 Additionally, the report assumes a total Darfuri refugee population of approximately 250,000 (249,744), based on a May 2009 calculation by the UN High Commission for Refugees.6 Assuming no family duplication in representation—again, such duplication is highly unlikely given the sampling method—and an average immediate family size of 10: for 100 respondents—each representing 10 family members, for a total represented population of 1,000 refugees—there is conﬁrmation of 229 “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.” In other words, 22.9% of the 1,000 represented refugee population.
If we assume that this ﬁgure is fully statistically representative for Darfuri refugees in the camps of eastern Chad, the total ﬁgure for violent mortality experienced by this population is approximately 57,250 (229 x 250 [250 = 250,000 / 1,000 persons]) as of July 2009. Alternatively, we may calculate 22.9% of 250,000— again 57,250. If we assume a smaller average size for families in the camp, the total number of deaths increases proportionately. Such an assumption does not increase the number of family members killed in the sense of numbers per family, but rather increases our estimate of the number of families represented in the camp, and thus the total number of deaths (see Appendix 2).
Further Possible Extrapolations from these Data Since the total displaced population in eastern Chad and Darfur has grown over more than seven years, we require an average ﬁgure on which to base any extrapolation to the internally displaced populations inside Darfur. Using UN ﬁgures, such averaging moves from a starting number of 0 (zero) for early 2003 to approximately
1.66 million in December 2004 to approximately 2 million in October 2006 to the present ﬁgure of 2.7 million, ﬁrst reported by the UN in October 2008 and relevant through the gathering of “Darfurian Voices” data in April July 2009. Finding a precise average number of displaced persons, including refugees, with proper weighting of particular time-frames, is not feasible. More troublingly, from a statistical perspective, displacement is less and less directly related to violent attacks—and thus violent mortality—after 2004. However, displacement is still typically related to concerns about insecurity, and signiﬁcant violent mortality continues. But if precision is impossible, reasonable estimates can be made from available ﬁgures for displacement.
If we assume an average internally displaced population of 830,000 (830,000 = (0 + 1.66 million) / 2) for the period of February 2003 to December 2004, and if we assume that the Chadian refugee mortality ﬁgure is fully representative of this population, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is 229 x 830 (830 = 825,000 / 1,000 persons) or almost 190,000 (190,070) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.” Alternatively, we may calculate 22.9% of 825,000— again 190,000 (190,070).
The average total of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for January 2005 to October 2006 may be estimated as 1.83 million (1.83 million = (1.65 million + 2 million) / 2). Thus the average increase in the internal displacement population for the period of January 2005 to October 2006 is 1.01 million (that is, this ﬁgure represents the increase from the average population of internally displaced persons for February 2003 through December 2004: 1.83 million minus 825,000). If we assume that by this point in the conﬂict the Chadian refugee violent mortality rate overstates by a factor of 5 violent mortality among internally displaced Darfuris, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is (229.5) x 1,010 (1,010 = 1.01 million / 1,000 persons) or approximately 46,000 (46,258) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.” Alternatively, we may calculate (22.9% of 1.01 million) / 5—again 46,000 (46,258).
The average total of IDPs for November 2006 to July 2009 may be estimated as 2.35 million (2.35 = (2 million + 2.7 million) / 2). Thus the average increase in the internal displacement population for the period of November 2006 to July 2009 is 520,000 (that is, this ﬁgure represents the increase from the average population of internally displaced persons for January 2005 to October 2006: 2.35 million minus 1.83 million). If we assume that by this point in the conﬂict the Chadian refugee violent mortality rate overstates by a factor of 10 violent mortality among internally displaced Darfuris, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is (229 10) x 520 (520 = 520,000 / 1,000 persons) or approximately 12,000 (11,900) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conﬂict.” Alternatively, we may calculate (22.9% 10) x 520,000—again 12,000 (11,900).
Violent mortality through July 2009 is thus estimated to be:
57,250: violent mortality among Darfuri refugees in Chad 190,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, February 2003 to December 2004 46,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, January 2005 to October 2006 12,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, November 2006 to July 2009 305,250: total violent mortality among displaced Darfuris through July 2009
Obviously these calculations all depend upon how we answer a basic question: