With all of the numbers being thrown around – more than 1.8 million displaced persons in Darfur and Chad; somewhere between 70,000 and 400,000 dead so far; 3,300 troops pledged from the African Union – it is sometimes hard to grasp the scope of the crisis in Sudan. Here are some helpful comparisons:
How many people are at risk?
Thousands die each week.
Last September, the World Health Organization estimated that 10,000 people are dying each month in Darfur. At a rate of 14 deaths per hour, the number of lives lost each week is equivalent to the total lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The 10,000 deaths per month mark, experts say, has long been exceeded—the government of Sudan refuses visas to the WHO specialists that could properly update the mortality survey.
More than live in Philadelphia.
In Darfur and neighboring Chad, more than 2.3 million people have been directly impacted by the conflict. Of those, more than 1.8 million people have been forced from their homes. Imagine the entire populations of Dallas and Ft. Worth expelled and scattered across the Texas plains.
Imagine Seattle’s population homeless.
These scenarios are daily realities in Darfur: more than the entire population of Seattle homeless, more than all who live in Charlotte, N.C., going hungry, more than all who live in San Francisco without any doctors or hospitals, and more people than all of Detroit without any access to clean water.
How big is Darfur?
Sudan is about one-quarter the size of the United States. Sudan is the largest country in Africa. Covering 967,498 square miles, if it was placed atop a map of the United States, Sudan would cover an area from Wisconsin to the Atlantic Ocean, going as far south as Florida.
Darfur is larger than California. The Darfur region, one of the largest in Sudan, covers roughly 200,000 square miles. That makes it 25 percent larger than California, or about the size of France.
Driving from New York to Denver – without highways. Moving supplies across this enormous country takes a very long time. With very few highways and a limited railroad network, the roughly 1,600-mile trip from Port Sudan to refugee camps on the Darfur/Chad border takes weeks. It’s equivalent to driving from New York to Denver on bumpy dirt roads through torrential rains and scorching summer heat.
What are conditions like in the refugee camps?
Severe malnutrition and famine.
Despite food donations from world governments and the prodigious work of international humanitarian groups to distribute aid, many people are not eating enough to survive. According to Doctors Without Borders, “from January until May , the people in [the West Darfur] camp at Mornay were receiving only 1,000 kcals per day, not even half of the 2,500 Kcal daily ration needed to survive.”
To put that in perspective, 1,000 kcals is roughly equal to one Snickers bar, one order of French fries, and a 16 oz. Coca-Cola.
Food often unable to reach camps. Food distribution to some camps has improved, but many remain inaccessible. Thus, famine conditions persist for hundreds of thousands of people who have the dual misfortune of being displaced and out of range of help.
Never-ending streams of new refugees.
Even camps that are consistently receiving supplies cannot keep up with demand. After each janjaweed attack, more displaced people seek shelter and assistance. The Breidjing refugee camp in Chad was over capacity in August, when there was one latrine for every 980 persons.
In comparison, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that event planners provide one toilet for every 167 attendees at large public events.
So next time you are in a long bathroom line at a concert or sporting event, just be thankful that you don’t have to stay in a place that is always just as crowded, but where there are five times fewer toilets – and they are rarely cleaned.