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Sudan (Darfur) Complex Emergency (2004- Present)

Insecurity in the three states of Darfur, the western region of Sudan, has steadily increased since the Darfur-based opposition Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) attacked Government of Sudan (GOS) military forces at El Fasher, North Darfur, on April 24 and 25, 2003. Fighting amongst the main opposition groups-the SLM/A and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)-the GOS military, and GOS-supported militia groups collectively known as Jingaweit intensified during late 2003.

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The humanitarian emergency in Darfur is a direct result of violence toward the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit civilian groups by GOS forces and the Jingaweit. Conflict-affected populations describe recurrent and systematic attacks against towns and villages, burning of buildings and crops, arbitrary killings, gang rape, and looting. The GOS has used aerial bombardments to terrorize civilians who the GOS claims are harboring SLM/A or JEM forces. According to the United Nations (U.N.), approximately 860,000 people are internally displaced and more than 110,000 people have fled across the border into neighboring Chad, out of an estimated population of 6.5 million within Darfur.

In response to this crisis, in May 2004, the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) deployed a long-term Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to monitor and evaluate USG humanitarian assistance in the Darfur, Western Sudan. OFDA has also had a Washington based Response Management Team (RMT) active since May 2004. The Forest Service International Programs Disaster Assistance Support Program (DASP), at the request of OFDA, has provided continuous support to the current USG humanitarian assistance effort in Darfur since the beginning. Field Officers Ron Libby and Gary Barrett have spent a considerable amount of time in the Darfur Region serving in a variety of capacities for OFDA from Program/Field Officer to Logistics/Security Officer. One the field officers headed the sub-DART office in Geneina, Sudan for two months. The Forest Service (Leslie Prewitt and Doug Elliot) has also provided many staff for the RMT, which has proved invaluable to OFDA, due to the high staffing demands for this response.

During the rainy season in Sudan (July - October), the humanitarian community discovered that the lack of a developed transportation network was biggest hindrance to delivering the food and non-food assistance to the displaced people in Darfur. This was due to flooding of many of the roads and passages. Forest Service staff assessed the situation as developed a draft action plan that called for the potential deployment of pontoon bridges to help open the transportation network. In response to the plan, OFDA requested that Forest Service Engineer Merv Erickson travel to Sudan to perform a bridge and road assessment. Data collected from that assessment trip will help to plan for the next year's rainy season.

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