Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen and Eric Reeves, Co-Chairs
Julie Darcq, Online campaign coordinator; Nancy Reeves, editor and financial facilitator
Monthly Report of from the Coordinating Counselor, Team Zamzam | March 2022 (translated by Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen)
This summary reports on:
- highlight the current security and humanitarian situation on the ground in North Darfur
- summarizes Team Zamzam’s activities during the current month and offers two testimonials of the beneficiaries of these programmes
Brief introductory remarks
To begin with, we would like to offer a few words of appreciation, no matter how often they have been previously offered. The truth is that mere words are not enough to express our feelings about the happiness and progress that this project has brought into our lives—and into the lives of those who benefited from the work we are able to do. But moral and professional duty obliges us to repeat the words of thanks and appreciation, so that we can constantly remind ourselves of the importance of the roles we play in alleviating the suffering of victimized girls and women, and the lives of the disadvantaged—and to remind our faithful, generous donors of the importance of their contribution.
Through this project, we have learned many useful techniques that have enabled us to establish ourselves strongly, broadly, and at all levels within the camp—and we are still striving to learn even more. What deserves to be stressed here is the overall achievement we have attained. We are deeply grateful that thanks to this project, we have been able to save the lives of several hundred young girls from deep despair, severe depression, negative thinking, and suicidal tendencies.
What is driving us with optimism and enthusiasm is the pure sense of joy that is generated by everyday experience in the field. In every counseling session for traumatized girls and women. We hear horrific stories, but we also see hope in their eyes, we feel a sense of aspiration and optimism in their frail tones, and see strength in their bodies. It’s the beginning of a long road ahead, but we will continue with our best efforts until we see a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
Overall Security and its challenges in Darfur
Any observer of Sudanese affairs will have noticed the significant deterioration of the security situation in Darfur and the ever-increasing violations in various states over the past year. The deterioration of the security situation in Darfur, and the ensuing chaos, have created very frightening and disturbing realities in every part of Darfur, from smallest villages to the outskirts of major cities; the main roads between cities have become evermore dangerous, with the appearance of armed robbers looting cargo carriers, killings drivers, and robbing travellers now a daily occurrence.
With regard to grave human rights violations, such as sexual violence and violence against young girls at gunpoint, these are still increasing on a daily basis. It is deeply disturbing that there has been a recent, continuous increase in sexual violence. Although such violence has previously—and frequently—occurred in areas under attack, and in villages and rural areas, now rape and sexual violence are occurring everywhere, from average towns to provincial capitals. According to some testimonies from recent victims, there are several reasons for increasing sexual violence. In our estimation—based on close observations and victims’ testimonies, as well as follow-up cases—the following factors are likely causing the increase in sexual violence:
• The spread of arms in the hands of multiple unknown militias; the absence of competent law enforcement authorities; and most tellingly, the unwillingness of the state security apparatus to pursue perpetrators of these grave violations. This situation has powerfully discouraged many victims of sexual violence from reporting to the authorities.
• There are constant threats of extortion—directed at victims of sexual violence and their families—by the perpetrators. We have a number of testimonies that confirm this. 18-year-old Halima told us of her attacker: “He threatened me with a weapon, and after he finished raping me, he pulled out his phone to take many pictures while I’m naked.” And Halima continued: “He said to me, ‘if you open your mouth to anyone, everyone in Sudan will know about your stinky body.’”
The overall picture concerning security situation in Darfur is becoming increasingly unpredictable and frightening on a day-to-day basis. While many people are confused and scared to talk openly the current situation, everyone is pointing a finger at the militias affiliated with family of Hemeti [Hamdan Dagalo, head of the notorious Rapid Support Forces militia and deputy head of the governing “Sovereign Council”] as those responsible for the chaotic violence in Darfur.
In the past week, approximately 132 families fled from their homes to the IDP camps of North Darfur. Among the new arrivals, most were women and children; there are 283 children under the age 13. More than half of these new arrivals managed to reach Zamzam camp late in the evening of Tuesday, March 22nd; since then they have been camping in make-shift tents in a hot sun under very bad conditions.
Team Zamzam, with two other local charities, was able to provide a considerable number of second-hand blankets for 29 families, but their situation is still dire. The focus for next month’s distribution will be prioritizing these new arrivals.
The worsening of the economic situation and its effects on the poor and the camp residents
With the political horizon blocked after the coup d’état of last October 25th, leading eventually to the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan has moved to the verge of economic collapse, with the inflation rate at its highest level ever. This inflation led to an almost incomprehensible rise in the prices of basic goods and services in the country. There has also been a cessation of support for some basic commodities, such as bread, and a decline in incomes in the public and private sectors. The contraction of the Sudanese economy, with high inflation raging uncontrollably, has over the past six months created a desperately harsh reality with immense social consequences. Even so, lesser versions of these economic hardships have long been a reality for the peripheral populations; here it must be stressed that the primary concerns remain insecurity and prolonged social injustice.
Today, most inhabitants of Darfur see the situation as having become critical, and most people are saying cannot bear this any longer. Some—especially young people—see no alternative but to escape and run away from these harsh conditions.
The crushing economic circumstances and uncontrolled violence might be compared to being between a “blazing hammer and a hard rock.”
The rainy season is due very soon. In the past people used this time to be heavily engaged in preparation for cultivation; but this season, the priority for most of camp’s population is to find half a meal a day to survive from hunger. Hunger is forcing many kids to leave school as early as age ten; hunger is forcing many young boys to leave Darfur and run away to unknown destinations; hunger is forcing many young girls to confront isolation and depression as a result of exploitation; and hunger is forcing many young mothers to spend hours in a hot sun in the streets of El Fasher market, begging for food to feed their children.
In fact, starvation has become the main threat to most of the camp residents, and if urgent measures are not being taken in the coming weeks, this dire situation will have more catastrophic consequence.
Drinking water crisis, thirsty and shortage in the Dar Al-Naim area.
Kushnij area or Dar Al-Naim area:
The Dar-al-Na’im area (Kushing) consists of three villages, or Hilla: Kushnij, Hilla Arayed and Hilla Sheikh Ahmed. Its total population is about 7,000 thousand people. It has two schools, one for boys and the other for girls. The population of this area suffers from a lack of the most basic necessity of life, drinking water. The residents of this area suffer from acute water shortages. as there is only one water tank, which is about two hours’ walk from the villages. Last year, after appeals and pleas from the local population in the area, one water tank was dug half an hour away from the area utilizing donations. But the tank has yet to be finished due to insufficient of funds. Previously, Team Zamzam has donated about $800 to this locally led initiative on two occasions, but they are still in need of a few thousand dollars for completion. The completion of this water tank will bring so much relief and happiness to the local population of this area who are exhausted by long walks.
Work carried out since 1st March 2022
• Total of 46 inspection visits in the four sections of Zamzam camp to check living conditions and the status of sick people
• Total of 8 inspection visits carried out to inspect the tents of the recently displaced to check their living conditions
• Total of 21 large group meetings held in 8 different locations to provide people with health advice, information and awareness in the four sections of the camp Zamzam
• Total of 18 pregnant women being accompanied women to El Fasher Hospital for initial examinations and routine checks
• Total of 1 fistula patient, 20 years old, accompanied by Team Zamzam counselors to the hospital in El Fasher for surgical treatment
Total of 6 families with handicapped children are being accompanied to hospital in El Fasher
Distribution of basic necessities and the number of beneficiaries
Food package containing: 3 pounds of sugar, 2 kilos of pasta, 2 kilos of flour, 1 liter of cooking oil and 5 tea bags were distributed per family:
- A total of 117 families benefited
- A total of 623 persons benefited
Distribution of feminine hygiene kits
- 18 small hygiene kits were distributed to girls and women, each containing: 2 tubes of toothpaste, 2 dozen shaving razors, 2 tubes of shaving cream,1 tube of body cream, 4 toothbrushes, and 1 package containing a dozen female menstruation cottons:
Total: 18 girls and women benefited
160 bars of hand washing soap distributed to 40 families
Counseling sessions for victims of sexual violence:
- Group counseling sessions: 44
- Individual counseling session: 78
- First time seeking counseling: 17
- Returns for more than one session: 28
- Returns for more than 2 sessions: 13
Total: 122 counseling sessions
Testimonials from victims of sexual violence:
Amira Ibrahim – – -, 21 years old:
“My name is Amira Ibrahim – – – , I’m 21 years old now and a fully committed volunteer with Team Zamzam since last year; I very much enjoy what I do here. I’m originally from Limina village which is 30 kilometres south of El Fasher. I fled with my family years ago to Zamzam camp and ever since Zamzam has been my home.
What has encouraged me to be part of the volunteering group is my story and what brought me into contact with the sisters. Before joining the sisters’ programme, I was living a life of hell in a tiny isolated corner inside our house where I didn’t want to talk to anyone. This was because the Janjaweed militias raped me twice in a space of three years. The first time was when I was sixteen and the second time was two years ago.
The second incident hurt me so much that I couldn’t handle it anymore. I even thought of hanging myself from a tree, but my mother rescued me from doing this. After the incident, for two months I couldn’t walk from my room to toilet; but what hurt me most was remembering the moment when my assailants were laughing at me.
These nightmares continued with me for several months until last year when, thanks to the efforts of my friends and family, I received an invitation to meet with the sisters of Team Zamzam. At the beginning, I was very doubtful but after attending six or seven sessions my life had changed for good.
At the sessions, I met 17-year-old Aisha, who lost one of her eyes in a sexual assault. I met Saja, who was humiliated in front her family in broad daylight. And I met many more whose stories made me forget my own story. In those sessions, we share our stories with each other, we hug each other when emotions overcome our feelings, and we also sing most of times to overcome our tears. The meeting sessions have not only changed my life forever, but have also changed lives of so many of my friends who were suffering badly.”
Testimony from Fistula patient
Rouwida Muktar, – – – 23 years old.
“After a long, agonising wait—after almost two and a half years in pain—the end of last year was happy start to my new life. My new life is free of pain, free of depression, free of long irritating nights, free of worries, more friends and plenty of happiness. Two weeks after the surgery, I felt as if I was given new life in paradise and from that moment onwards everything has changed for the better for me. Fistula had almost destroyed my entire life, but thank God but for me it’s over now and I only pray for those who haven’t had the chance to go through surgery. I wish them speedy recovery and I thank all those who helped me to get through this.”