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Sudan: Tracking displacement and population mobility to ensure that people in need receive aid

30 Oct 2017
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Tarig Adam and the DTM team recently registered people in need in Golo, in a part of the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, which had remained inaccessible to humanitarian actors for several years until August 2016. Credit: IOM

Tarig Adam, stationed in West Darfur, plays a key role in ensuring aid organizations can identify and support people in need across Darfur.

Tarig works as an assistant with the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), and leads teams to register people, who require humanitarian aid. The DTM is IOM’s key tool for tracking and registering people who need assistance. DTM activities in Sudan are funded by the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF), which supports emergency relief response by channelling contributions from donors into a pooled fund. As of October 2017, the SHF has allocated US$22 million for various humanitarian projects in Sudan. The DTM team conducts registration exercises on behalf of the Area Humanitarian Country Team and jointly with Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC). IOM, the UN’s migration agency, has been operating in Sudan since 2000.

Earlier this year, when Tarig’s team registered people in need in Golo, Central Darfur, it proved to be a breakthrough for humanitarian aid in Sudan. This part of the conflict-affected mountainous Jebel Marra region had remained inaccessible for many years. Tarig is based in El Geneina, West Darfur and spends much of his time out of the office and in the field. He was in the field for several months at a stretch earlier this year, as he and his team travelled from one remote location to another to register people.

Tarig is modest about his work and explains his job in a sentence, “When we arrive in a village, after being given an initial list of people in need by the local authorities, we speak to them about their needs and register them to make sure we keep track of all people in need.”

Tarig outlines two methods used by IOM during the first stage of the process: door-to-door assessments; and gathering people in one place. If there are many people to be counted, Tarig and his team split into two groups. The door-to-door process involves assessing living conditions and noting down key facts such as age, sex and vulnerabilities. Those who are considered vulnerable include the elderly, people with disabilities and female-headed households.

The second method is used when there are many people to be registered and it entails gathering people together at a central area in the village and organizing them in family units. The team then registers a family at a time.

This month, Tarig and his team travelled to Rokero, another remote location in the Jebel Marra area. It was a tough mission and the team spent two weeks in the field. Prior to his trip, Tarig said, “There is not much in Rokero, so we are taking what we need with us. The area is insecure, so we will be accompanied by peacekeepers to keep us safe. Going on difficult missions can be daunting, but we have a dedicated team, and we have to register people in need – even in remote and insecure locations – so that they can receive assistance. This is what keeps us going.”


Tarig Tarig and his team prepare for a mission to register people in need in Rokero, in the remote and mountainous Jebel Marra area of Central Darfur. To ensure their safety, the United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will escort them. Photo: Isabelle Kermeen, OCHA

Tarig says, IOM works closely with the local authorities and community on the ground. IOM even recruits people from the local community for the DTM teams, which helps in making the work effortless.

IOM tracks and registers people who have left their homes and been displaced inside their country (known as internally displaced persons or IDPs), people who are returning home after a period of internal displacement (returnees), people who are displaced from other countries as well as people affected by natural disasters such as flooding. Once people are registered, IOM verifies and cross-checks the information and records it electronically. The verified information is shared with other key partners who provide assistance such as the World Food Programme, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

In emergency or similar situations, aid agencies often provide the initial life-saving assistance immediately, however, for more regular and planned activities they use DTM lists of beneficiaries.

The work is tiring and demanding, but Tarig loves his job, even admitting that he is addicted to it. He says, “What we see sometimes brings us to tears, that people can be so vulnerable in this day and age. Bringing hope to people is why this job is so important to me.”