Displaced Populations in Sudan

Sudan has a large population of displaced people who have left their original villages and moved elsewhere, often to urban settlements. The Commission of Displaced (COD) estimates that 3.5 million people had been displaced by 1991, of which 0.6 to 1.5 million were in the greater Khartoum area (Kuch, 1993). The major factors forcing the migrations were civil war in the south, which erupted during the dry summer of 1983, and the 1984 drought that resulted in the worst famine to hit northern Sudan in the past 100 years (Kuch, 1993). The underlying causes for displacement go well beyond escaping the impact of drought. A mixture of socioeconomic and environmental pressures is responsible, partly resulting from the

TABLE 4 Crisis-Induced Migration Model (CIM)


Normality (pre-migration situation)


Emergency situation


Local reaction chain




Sanctuary phase (seeking refuge of a temporary nature)


Settlement phase


Return phase

Source: Elnur et al. (1993, p. 50); developed by the UN Emergency Unit.

Source: Elnur et al. (1993, p. 50); developed by the UN Emergency Unit.

dominant development model that for years ignored the traditional sector (Elnur et al, 1993).

Most studies of food security and survival strategies focus on the premigration situation and regard the act of migration itself as the final coping strategy (see Dagnew 1995, p.109). To investigate the food security strategies of displaced populations, it is necessary to look at stages beyond migration (see Table 4). It is important to note that where war is a predominant forcing factor the expected premigration sequence of events may not be followed. The speed and forced nature of this type of migration increases the vulnerability of the displaced as they are likely to have lost all assets, leaving nothing with which to start their postmigration life (Elnur et al., 1993).

The displaced populations are not a homogeneous group, which is reflected in the diversity of the survival strategies adopted (see Table 5). These strategies are a function of many socioeconomic variables such as the predisplacement economic activity of the people. For example, many of those displaced from the south were cattle herders or subsistence farmers with few professional skills. The sex, number, and age of household members are also major determinants of livelihood strategies; 35% of displaced families are female headed (Kuch, 1993). Even within groups with the same basic means of livelihood, tremendous differences can occur; poorer families may have trouble obtaining credit to enable them to diversify their activities.

A study by Kuch (1993) also investigated the food situation of the displaced in Khartoum and found them to be highly vulnerable. People without access to land cannot produce their own food, making them heavily dependent on the market economy. Monetary income is, therefore, crucial to food security in these situations, and people even resort to illegal methods, such as the sale of alcohol, which is punishable with lashes and fines and up to a year imprisonment (Kuch, 1993). Inability to purchase even a single meal a day was frequently experienced. Malnutrition among those under 5 years old was found to double within a year in most settlements. Rations introduced by the Sudan Council of Churches' (SCC) Primary Health Care Program (PHCP) to supplement their diets had to be extended to entire families because sharing of the rations meant that the health status of the under-5-year-olds often did not improve (Kuch, 1993).

TABLE 5 Responses Adopted by Displaced Southern Sudanese to Secure Their Livelihood

Seeking shelter with relatives already residing in planned residential areas

Working as guardians at construction sites

Departure of young men for mechanized agricultural schemes

Retail selling of different consumer items

Selling of rationed supply items

Child labor at markets

Domestic work of women and children, mainly washing and cleaning other people's houses

Working as daily workers at construction sites and industries

Production and distribution of local alcoholic beverages

Depending on government and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) aid

Begging and collecting of rubbish

Robbery and other illicit activities, including prostitution

Government support for food-insecure migrants comes in the form of the "essential commodity distribution card" system, which subsidizes products such as sorghum, sugar, tea leaves, vegetable oil, batteries, matches, and washing soap. For the first 9 months of the scheme, unregistered quarters, including displaced settlements, were not given cards. Even when the displaced were given cards, their purchasing power limited them because, despite subsidies, the commodities' prices remained more than many could afford (Kuch, 1993). Relief food was distributed by agencies under government surveillance.

Many migrants will not achieve truly sustainable livelihoods while in camps and settlements. They await the return to their home area as the only solution to their survival problems (Yath, 1993). Further work is needed in order to assist policy decisions such as planning what type of food distribution (e.g., commercial or relief systems) is best in settlements. Also, more attention needs to be directed at assisting people to develop and expand their own coping strategies.

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