SUDAN WATCH: Darfur population figures: 6 million, 6.5 million, or 6-7 million

Monday, November 29, 2004

Darfur population figures: 6 million, 6.5 million, or 6-7 million

This post is for Christopher (see next post above) of Mayflower Hill blog in appreciation of his posts on the Sudan. The following is an edited copy of my email to Sudan expert Prof Eric Reeves at Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA. It is dated August 18, 2004.

Dear Dr Reeves,

The reason for this email is to ask you which of the population figures that I have copied below are, in your opinion, the best for me to use as a basis for future posts.

As time goes on, I become more and more puzzled over the refugee numbers used by UN and USAID -- their sums keep changing -- which helps to explain why I feel the aid operation is 50% failiure -- and why many news reports seem to contain conflicting numbers.

Back in April, I got the impression that the population of Darfur was around 6 to 7 million. A few months later, I thought I'd been mistaken and the figure was around 3 million. Then recently I thought I got it all wrong: that the real population figures were between 1 and 2.5 million.

Whenever I came across these different figures, I wondered where all the people from Darfur are located. Recently, a US official was quoted in a news report as saying 80,000 had been killed: I wondered how the official knew: where were all the bodies, who dug all the graves -- why is there not a single photograph. Many questions. Too many to go into here.

Your latest update "Darfur III" report has helped shed light on some of my questions. You are the first person I have come across that seems to be saying what I am thinking -- and I am itching to talk to. But since I can't talk to you, I am hoping you will send me a little note. Nothing arduous or complicated that will take up much of your time. I'm hoping you deal with these figures so often, that you know them from the top of your head and can talk off the cuff without having to take a lot of time out looking things up.

I would like you please to look over (see below) the eight points I have numbered. They are the figures I am working from. The trouble I am having is this: which set of figures are likely to be the most accurate? Can you say?

My main question is: what do you think about the figures in (3) from the Government of Sudan, compared to (4) from the Darfur Information Center website, compared to (5) U.N. 2004 report? How do you suppose Darfur Information Center came by figures in (4) for 2004?

All of the below figures are so different. It makes me wonder how the UN World Food Programme knows how many to cater for.

(1) Here is information according to the 1911 at

Darfur has an estimated population of 750,000

DARFUR, a country of east central Africa, the westernmost state of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. It extends from about 10 N. to 16 N. and from 21 E. to 27 30 E., has an area of some 150,000 sq. m., and an estimated population of 750,000. It is bounded N. by the Libyan desert, W. by Wadai (French Congo), S. by the Bahr-el-Ghazal and E. by Kordofan. The two lastnamed districts are mudirias (provinces) of the Anglo-Egyptian. Suda

- - -
(2) Here is information according to

Darfur population confirmed in 1983 = 3,093,700

North Darfur = 1,327,900 in 1983
South Darfur = 1,765,800 in 1983
West Darfur = not given

TOTAL: 3,093,700 (not including West Darfur)

At a glance here are some figures from the above site for the years
1937 - 1983.

c1983 = 3,093,700
e1973 = 1,869,000
e1969 = 1,683,000
1968 = 1,650,000
1966= 1,467,700
1961 = 1,538,700
c1955/56= 1,328,800
1950? = 1,005,600
1948 = 882,800
c1938 715,500
e 1937 763,300
- - - -

(3) Here are figures from the Government of Sudan website that show
the Darfur population figures for the year 2000 = 8,386,007 -
11,094,014 (for north - Samal) (four south - Janub) (for west - Garb)

Year 2000: North Darfur = 2,708,007
Year 2000: South Darfur = 2,708,007
Year 2000: West Darfur = 5,678,000

Therefore, added together,
TOTAL POPULATION OF DARFUR, AS AT 2000 = 8,386,007 - 11,094,014
according to Government of Sudan site.
- - - -

(4) Here are figures from the Darfur Information Center website that
show the Darfur population figures for the year 2004 = 897,500

(a) North Darfur - Samal: al Fasir, Kutum, Umm Kaddadah:
Year and population figures in 1000
2004 = 212,200
1993 = 141,900 - this is for al Fasir only
1983 = 97,400
1973 = 61,400

(b) Total for South Darfur - Janub: ad-Duayn, Niyala: (south)
Year and population:
2004 = 511,800 - this includes 17,100 in Rahid-al-Bardi
1993 = 300,500
1983 = 133,300
1973 = 78,400

(c) Total for West Darfur Garb: al-Junaynah, zalinjay:
Year and population:
2004 = 173,500
1993 = 92,800 - this excludes zalinjay
1983 = 74,000
1973 = 49,200

WHOLE OF DARFUR TOTAL (adding up figures for north, south and west by
year) =
2004 = 897,500
1993 = 535,200
1983 = 304,700
1973 = 189,000

Therefore, TOTAL POPULATION OF DARFUR, AS AT 2004 = 897,500 according
to Darfur Information Center site.
- - -


(a) North Darfur State Version 2, 21 June 2004
North Darfur has a population of approximately 1,603,000 80% of which is rural based. The main ethnic groups are the Fur and Zaghawa, while the minor groups are the Meydob, Massleit, Bargo, Borgo, Gomor and Bedyat.

(b) South Darfur State Version 2, 17 June 2004
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2003, estimated the population of South Darfur State as 123,064,000, of which 140,343 were Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The state has an annual population growth rate of 3.48 (1998-2003). The population density was estimated at 17 persons per 4square km. The sex ratio, the number of males per 100 females was 99.41. The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) and Crude Death Rate (CDR) for 1998-2003 was 41.0 and 11.0 respectively, while the Infant Mortality 5Rate (IMR) for males and females in 1993 was 120 and 103 respectively. In 2003, 78.69 % of the population was classified as rural (mainly farmers and pastoralists) and 21.31 % as urban. The major ethnic groups include the Rezieghat, Habanya, Falat'a, Bni Halba, Taisha, and Fur in addition to other minority groups. The conflict in the Great Darfur region began in the early 1980's but intensified in 2003. The conflict has lead to displacement of over one million people who have either fled to safer locations within the region or across the border into Chad.

(c) West Darfur State Version 2, 23 June 2004
West Darfur State covers a total area of 150,000 square kilometres. It borders Chad to the west, South Darfur State to the east and North Darfur State to the north. The state's population was estimated at 121,693,000 in 2003, with a growth rate of 2.38% annually between 1998 and 2003. In addition to this, 3there are approximately 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Summary of above UN figures:

North Darfur = 1,603,000
South Darfur = 123,064,000 - this would make sense if two zeros were
deleted - have they made a typo error here -- twice?
West Darfur = 121,693,000 - ditto

246,360,000 according to the United Nations' website (or 2,463,600 if
they have added too many zeros)
- - -


PAGE 15.5 - POINT 6: In parallel to the conflict in the South, the situation in the western part of the country, the Darfur region, generally deteriorated in the course of the 1990s and finally erupted into civil conflict in February 2003. Approximately 6.5 million persons divided into a number of ethnic/tribal affiliations live in the mainly rural and underdeveloped region of Darfur.

In 1994 the current regime implemented an administrative reform and divided the region into three states (North, South and West Darfur). In February 2003, the SLA and the JEM initiated an armed rebellion against the Government, citing discrimination, neglect and underdevelopment as the reasons. In the ensuing months, a large part of the civilian population was displaced by the fighting.

While there was no official statistical information confirming the number of displaced inside the country, estimates indicated that more than 1 million persons had been displaced within the region and approximately 150,000 had fled to Chad.

I was deeply concerned at the situation I witnessed of the large numbers of internally displaced persons and other civilians in Darfur. They were and continue to be in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Most of the camps I visited received no regular humanitarian assistance or protection, and there appeared to be practically no national protection actors present. The right to life of all these people continued to be seriously threatened even following their displacement. Some reports indicate that the displaced are still being harassed by Government-controlled groups. Even after my mission I received reports that extrajudicial executions were still taking place. It is very likely that the humanitarian situation will deteriorate significantly with the coming rainy season and that more people will die.
- - -


Population estimates, northern Sudan (2000-2002)

North Darfur 1,455,000 (2000) 1,503,000 (2001) 1,552,000 (2002)
South Darfur 2,760,000 (2000) 2,859,000 (2001) 2,960,000 (2002)
West Darfur 1,577,000 (2000) 1,614,000 (2001) 1,653,000 (2002)

Year Totals:
2000 = 5,792,000
2001 = 5,976,000
2002 = 6,165,000

Which, I believe, is probably where the figures that I read, originated from: ie population of around 6 - 7 million in Darfur.
- - -

From: ereeves
Subject: Re: The Sudan - Darfur population figures?
Date: 19 August 2004
To: ingrid.jones at

Hello, Ingrid---I can send you some recent things, and add your name to my email distribution list; that should clarify a good deal. Sorry to have to respond so briefly, but I'm under deadline and have a lot to do in the coming few days.

Darfur population: we simply don't know. The US Agency for Intl Development uses a figure of 6.5 million, and I know many of the people there working on Darfur---by and large very good. For this reason I use the figure, but know that it is probably somewhere between 6 and 7 million, but quite possibly lower. There are a host of complicating demographic factors and a lack of detailed knowledge. There is no reliable census number.

Never trust any information coming from the Khrtm govt: they lie like rugs. They are absolutely shameless.

In the absence of certainty, I suggest you use a single figure (6 million, 6.5 million, or 6-7 million) and stick with it, explaining as necessary

Cheers, Eric

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063


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