Project Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur: Team Zamzam
Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen and Eric Reeves, Project Co-Chairs
Our project focuses on victims of sexual violence in Darfur, presently focusing on the Zamzam camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and its some 300,000 inhabitants. Zamzam was one of the first camps established during the Darfur genocide that began in 2003 and it is one of the largest. Extensive research by Eric Reeves has established beyond reasonable doubt that over the past 18 years, many tens of thousands of girls and women have been raped in all areas of Darfur, often gang-raped. Sexual violence has been one of the primary weapons in a genocidal counter-insurgency campaign initiated by former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir awaits extradition to The Hague, where he has been charged by the International Criminal Court with genocide and crimes against humanity.
Although violence has diminished significantly, it is increasing in many areas and reports of rape and sexual assaults are constantly being reported to Team Zamzam, as well as other nearby sources.
The project in Zamzam has taken on a multitude of tasks, all assumed by the extraordinary twenty counselors who are the heart of the project. Their primary task is counseling girls and women traumatized by sexual assaults, often suffering from terrible nightmares, clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), and social ostracization. Many are too ashamed to speak about their experience with anyone, even family. Despite what is often stubborn resistance, Team Zamzam has now provided counseling to more than 3,000 women—often with life-changing effect. Some of the testimonials of those who have benefited most can be found here.
Team Zamzam also arranges for seven reparative surgeries per month for women suffering from the typically disabling and often excruciating pain of traumatic fistulas following rape and other forms of sexual assault. The cost of surgery is far beyond the means of nearly all victims, so Team Zamzam both funds the surgery and provides extensive pre- and post-operative care. To date there have been almost 50 successful fistula surgeries. Sadly, the waiting list is several times this number in Zamzam alone and continues to grow.
Additionally, the counselors of Team Zamzam also make monthly distributions of sanitizing soap—Covid appears on the verge of exploding in North Darfur—as well as food and medicine for the very most impoverished and needy in the camp (the blind, widows with children, the disabled, the extremely elderly). Humanitarian services throughout Darfur have shrunk dramatically since genocide in the region was a human rights cause célèbre.
Team Zamzam, through the collaborative work of Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen and Eric Reeves (project chairs), has for over a year prepared a monthly update on what has been achieved in Zamzam camp and the surrounding rural areas, where ethnically-targeted violence has been resurgent during the past agricultural cycle.
Funding for the project comes from a number of contributors and from Eric’s woodturning sales and personal resources. The monthly budget for the project is currently $4,000, which includes the salaries for the 20 counselors and their three security personnel (as well as the use of a car for transportation); a fistula surgery at $400 per surgery; and approximately $1,500 for food supplies, medicines, sanitary kits for women, soap, and beginning in November 2021, a significant number of surgical masks. Further plans for confronting the Covid-19 pandemic as it presents itself in North Darfur are in the making. Total costs of the project to date have been $80,000.
Although donations to the project are not tax-deductible, potential contributors should be aware that 100% of all proceeds from all sales of Eric’s woodturning go to the project. There are no overhead costs for this project; all funds are spent on direct service.