Sudan: The critical role of national humanitarian organizations in Darfur

1 Apr 2014

Darfur, Sudan: The role of local aid groups - including the Sudanese Red Crescent - is increasingly important in Sudan, especially in places like Darfur where international organizations are safe face constraints. Credit: SRCS
Ninety-seven per cent of all aid workers in Sudan’s Darfur region are Sudanese. Their role is becoming more important as constraints increase on international aid groups and staff.

Abdullah Adan Abubakr, a resident of the Krinding 2 camp in West Darfur and head of the camp’s food-relief committee, carefully measures quantities of sugar, sorghum and pulses. He knows how precious every kora (a measurement used in West Darfur) is to each displaced family.

“The quantity of food received by camp residents is half what it used to be,” he explains, concentrating on his task. “Oil, salt and CSB (a corn-soy blend) are no longer provided as part of a family’s monthly food package.”

Krinding 2 is home to thousands of people displaced by the violence that has plagued Sudan’s Darfur region since 2004. Across Darfur, an estimated 2 million people are living in camps and dependent on aid groups.

But Government restrictions make it very difficult for foreign agencies and staff to work in Darfur. Local humanitarian groups are becoming more and more important.

The only lifeline

Almost 400,000 people were displaced in Darfur in 2013–more than in any year since 2004. In the first months of 2014, 200,000 others have been forced from their homes and into camps such as Krinding 2.

Abdullah’s food committee distributes food provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), but the committee is effectively run by a national organization: the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS).

Nearly 6,000 of Krinding 2’s residents rely on Abdullah’s committee and the SRCS for food. For people such as Habiba Mohamed Hassan and her family, the food parcel they receive helps them stave off hunger. “The food I collect from the Red Crescent can feed my family for half a month,” says Habiba. “For the remainder of the month, I rely upon the 40 Sudanese Pounds (US$5) I earn from making bricks to buy food from the market.”

Changing realities

Despite the increasingly desperate humanitarian outlook, the number of aid workers in Darfur has steadily decreased. Following the expulsion of international aid organizations from Darfur in mid-2009, the number of aid workers in the region, excluding those working for national organizations, fell from 17,700 to roughly 6,850.

Ninety-seven per cent of these people are Sudanese nationals—people such as Adam Jilal Adeen, the SRCS Nutrition Coordinator in West Darfur.

“We have been here from the very start and will continue to be here, working with displaced communities, for as long as they need us,” he says.

Enhancing capacity, building partnerships

International aid groups now rely almost exclusively on Sudanese agencies and workers to deliver their programmes in Darfur. Therefore, many are allocating significant resources to these agencies and workers to provide them with training and support.

“National actors are indispensable partners when it comes to providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Sudan,” says Ivo Freijsen, Head of OCHA in Sudan. “They are often the only link the humanitarian community has with affected people, and they are sometimes in a more effective position to understand their needs and concerns.”

In Krinding 2, SRCS has volunteers from the local community working with the camp’s food-relief committees. “Working directly with the sheikhs, or camp leaders, and affected people helps build trust and understanding,” says Abdul Gasim Ahmed Ali, the SRCS Food Programme Manager in West Darfur.

“We are empowering people to take the lead in discussions regarding the needs and concerns of their community.”

More cash directed to Sudanese aid groups

The growing importance of Sudanese groups is reflected in the allocations made in recent years by the OCHA-managed Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF). Funding to local aid groups has increased from just under $1 million in 2008 to over $7 million in 2013. In the same period, the number of national organizations that received CHF funding grew from five to 28.

Local aid organizations are also benefiting from the experience and expertise of international partners. According to Barkat Faris Badri, the Head of the SRCS office in North Darfur, international humanitarian partners are an invaluable source of knowledge and know-how when it comes to reporting, proposal writing and mobilizing donor funds.

“Forging a strong partnership with our international colleagues is crucial as we look to improve the lives of people in need in Darfur and across Sudan.”

OCHA in Sudan>>

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