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Highlights

In 2003, violent conflict in Darfur, Sudan, broke out between rebel groups and government troops and government-supported Arab militias. While few would dispute that many thousands of Darfur civilians have died, less consensus exists about the total number of deaths attributable to the crisis. Estimates by the Department of State (State) and other parties report death tolls up to about 400,000 for varying populations and periods of time between February 2003 and August 2005. Based on the views of experts convened by GAO and the National Academy of Sciences, interviews with estimate authors, and a review of relevant literature, this report (1) evaluates six Darfur death estimates, (2) identifies general challenges to estimating deaths in such crises, and (3) discusses measures to improve death estimates.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State To safeguard the Department of State's credibility as a source of accurate and reliable death estimates, the Secretary of State should promote greater transparency in any of its future death estimates for Darfur or other humanitarian crises by ensuring that publicly available documents contain sufficient detail on the estimates' data, methods, assumptions, and limitations to allow external researchers to replicate and verify the estimates.
Closed - Implemented
Since our report, efforts to support the improvements in data and methodologies have been delegated to USAID. The State Department has not itself published death estimates since we reported.
United States Agency for International Development To enhance the U.S. government's capacity to assess the dimensions of, and respond appropriately to, any future humanitarian crises, the Secretary of State and the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator should consider the experts' other suggested measures to help address gaps in data and improve the quality and reliability of any future death estimates.
Closed - Implemented
USAID continues to provide support to non-profit organizations and institutions that improve field studies that allow for reporting on the human impact of disasters. USAID has supported the collection and publication of the results of field studies in a database as well as improvements in data methodologies.
Department of State To enhance the U.S. government's capacity to assess the dimensions of, and respond appropriately to, any future humanitarian crises, the Secretary of State and the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator should consider the experts' other suggested measures to help address gaps in data and improve the quality and reliability of any future death estimates.
Closed - Implemented
Since our report, efforts to support the improvements in data and methodologies have been delegated to USAID. The State Department has not itself published death estimates since we reported.

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