THE UNITED NATIONS is getting ready to appeal for more money for Darfur, the western Sudanese province that's been targeted with genocide. The reason is simple: The Darfur crisis, which threatens to slide off the radar screen as people grow tired of hearing about it, is quietly getting worse. Back in January, the World Food Program estimated that 2.8 million people would lack food for all or part of this calendar year. This month that number rose to 3.5 million -- more than half of Darfur's population.
Unfortunately, the United Nations can't count on collecting the money that it's about to ask for. At the start of this year it appealed for $693 million, nearly all of which it said it needed by June because of the time it takes to turn dollars into help on the ground. But as of June 1, only $358 million had come in from donors -- just over half what was hoped for. The United States has been by far the most generous donor, giving $252 million for Darfur plus another $100 million or so for relief efforts elsewhere in Sudan, according to figures compiled by the United Nations; Britain comes in second with $36 million, plus slightly more than $50 million for the rest of Sudan. Meanwhile Japan has given a grand total of just $7.9 million for all of Sudan. Germany has given merely $4.2 million for the whole country, France a paltry $1.8 million. Although Darfur's victims are Muslim, only two Islamic states even make it onto the U.N. list of the top 18 donors: Saudi Arabia, which had given a stingy $2.6 million to Sudan as of June 1, and the United Arab Emirates, which had managed $800,000. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has written to some of the recalcitrant member governments, but his pleas have been ignored.
There are food shortages elsewhere in Sudan and indeed elsewhere in Africa, some of them more acute than Darfur's. But that is an argument for increasing global humanitarian assistance, not for cold-shouldering Darfur. Likewise, it's true that rich countries' humanitarian effort in Darfur has already saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the past year or so and that this year several weeks' worth of relief rations have been positioned in the region ahead of the rainy season, which starts soon. But this generosity, although commendable, remains inadequate. Projects to get water, latrines and medicines into the camps for displaced people are underfunded: As of June 1, only 11 percent of the money requested for water and sanitation in Darfur had been provided by donors, and only 32 percent of the requested health money had come through. Relief workers worry that food shortages in the countryside will drive people into camps, and that it won't be possible to provide them with vaccines, drinking water and latrines. An epidemic of cholera or dysentery seems probable.
Humanitarian relief is not going to solve Darfur's crisis; it's a way of keeping people alive until the genocidal policies of the Sudanese government are changed. The regime has rendered millions of people dependent on Western charity by burning their villages and making it too dangerous to return to them; clustered into camps for the displaced, Darfur's people can't grow food to feed themselves. The key to reversing this displacement is to have foreign troops provide security, so that it's safe to go back to the villages, and at the same time to pressure Sudan's government into reining in its local militia allies. The United States is doing some of this, but it hasn't yet mounted the sort of all-out effort that could really solve the crisis. And so the dying carries on.