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, April 2022
(translated by Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen):
This monthly report for April 2022 focuses on two main themes currently very much preoccupying the IDPs of Zamzam and surrounding areas. The report also details the work of Team Zamzam, noting the team’s progress and the activities carried out during this period.
Violence attacks on citizens and displacement is still continued in Darfur
There has been an increase in the frequency of violent attacks on the villages of northeastern Jebel Marra and the displacement towards the camps continues. Attacks against citizens in their villages are constantly increasing, with no prospect of solutions to put an end to this aggression, or at least provision of minimum protection forces on the ground from the state security apparatus. The latest deadly attack was on the morning April 2, 2022. The Janjaweed militias attacked the Eastern Jebel Marra regions, specifically the Martal area, which led to killings, and the looting of innocent citizens.
These recent attacks have left dozens of dead and an unknown number of wounded in several villages in a strip along the northeastern Jebel Marra area. An eyewitness who survived the attack was able to reach Zamzam and said: “On early morning of second day of Ramadan and while we were about finished eating our Sohour, the Janjaweed attacked us from all directions, screaming. They immediately shot my son in the forehead. I rushed fast to protect my son’s body from bullets, but it was too late for him to survive and he died.” She said: “My only son, he is not even eighteen years old, and after the attack they took all our belongings and didn’t leave us anything.
[An extensive narrative from one survivor of such an attack appears at the end of this report.]
More fleeing towards overpopulated IDP camps, miseries on top of miseries
These latest attacks have also forced many more families to IDP camps, adding more misery to existing suffering; this has caused greater despair and depression among the population. No one knows where things are heading in this afflicted region of Darfur, whose people have suffered so long from the scourge of wars and systematic displacement. But what is clear is the sense of deep frustration, insecurity, fear, despair, and uncertainty looming overall of Darfur. For the people of Darfur, and this is particularly true for ID’s, the current deteriorating situation not only requires emergency solutions at the humanitarian level, but also swift solutions to put end this current intolerable insecurity before the rainy season commences.
Otherwise, if current insecurity continues to prevail, there will be no successful agricultural season again this year. For many people their entire livelihood depends on the rainy season. When we asked one of the community leaders of Zamzam and the head of the popular committee about their view of their future, they said: “Our people in the camps are slowly dying from hunger and right now another problem is scarcity of drinking water.” He continued “Three hundred meters outside of this camp Janjaweed are roaming and they are armed to teeth.” He concluded by saying: “This country, from top to bottom, is run by dangerous war criminals and heartless devils and we don’t know where to run for safety anymore.”
Killings with impunity
The situation in most villages of North Darfur, Central Darfur, West Darfur, and a large part of southwest South Darfur is in the grip of chaotic and dangerous armed militias that feel free to kill, loot, burn, and create widespread terror on the citizens. The so-called “government” has remained as silent as stones and have not provided even the slightest response to the concerns of citizens who are fed up with this intolerable insecurity.
Many people today are wondering and asking about the promises that were by made the Juba Peace signatories and their repeated rhetoric of peace. These slogans resonated with the people in Darfur during negotiation of the so-called Juba Peace Agreement (JPA). But despite the agreement, many just want leave Darfur for whatever place that they can find offering a minimum security for their children. We are unbearably sad when we see what “post-revolution Sudan” means, after all the tremendous sacrifices and the collective efforts made by our youth, women and the international community. The situation now is worse than we could have imagined.
Shortage of drinking water for inhabitants of Zamzam in the middle of very hot summer
The water crisis in Zamzam camp has been exacerbated after the failure of a number of our pumps and water tanks, a matter that created a severe water crisis in the camp. Residents are desperate for access to drinking water and have demanded that the authorities intervene immediately to address the problem. Since the beginning of this year, Zamzam camp has been suffering from a severe water shortage crisis, and now more than 483,000 people depend on solely on14 pumps for drinking water. It should be noted that the number of pumps in the camp is 270, but 256 of them are broken and need maintenance and repair; that leaves only14 working. Many pumps provide only water that is salty and unfit for drinking; this has led to outbreaks of various diseases.
“Save_Zamzam_from_Thirst” hashtag on social media
This is a hashtag that was circulated by a number of activists, journalists, and social media during the past two weeks. It represents and urgent call to the state and regional authorities, as well as to humanitarian organizations, seeking their help from the large-scale crisis that has befallen them because of insufficient water pumps. This call comes after severe suffering from barren conditions and difficult days experienced by the residents of the camp. These sad scenes are reminiscent of the past tragedies. The terrible suffering of the present finds children and women standing under the hot sun from morning to evening in search of a drop of water to quench their thirst. As soon as you look into their eyes, you will find sadness, misery, fatigue and suffering visible in their foreheads. Their condition is so miserable that any eyes of a conscious human heart cannot bear to look at them twice.
Sad scenes on the ground
We spent more than eight days with volunteers and representatives of neighbourhoods wandering from well to well and from tanker to tanker, and from our estimations the situation looks extremely threatening to the very existence of the inhabitants. Desperate efforts to collect water are being made, despite denial of a crisis by the authorities and by the director general of the Ministry of Infrastructure, specifically the Director General of Water.
Total disregard from the Government of Sudan
Regarding this matter, Hassan Saber, the coordinator of Zamzam camp, said in a press statement: “We have seen in the media a press statement attributed to the director of the Water and Environmental Sanitation Project in North Darfur State, Ismail Ahmed Mohamed, denying the Zamzam camp’s need for water at the present time, claiming that 18 large stations and 15 water pumps are provided, and there are periodic reviews and repairs that it is carrying out.”
Saber said: “With regard to this shameless falsehood, we would like to confirm the following: Zamzam is now in a state of complete collapse as far as ensuring water for the lives of the population. We have attached the details of the damaged and under-serviced water sources in all previous reports.”
He continued: “To clarify the truth of the matter, we call on all free media channels to stand on the ground and to reveal the facts so that everyone knows the falsehood of the so-called “director” of the water and environmental sanitation project. We point to him our accusing fingers about critical disruption and drying up of the camp’s water sources. We ask for an immediate investigation to be opened into the consequences of freezing the Shakra water supply project, which was ratified by the former governor Muhammad Hassan Arabi, for Zamzam camp.”
Saber concluded by saying: “Our hopes are still focused on humanity lovers and field officials in the wheels of government work—regional and state—to respond to our plight and begin serious work to support the water supplies of Zamzam camp soon.”
We extend our gratitude and thanks to everyone who stood with us at this critical juncture, in deed and in words, and provided articles emphasizing our crisis.
Message from citizens
A message to the governor of the Darfur region [ambitious former rebel leader Minni Minawi], the governor of North Darfur, and the director general of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Urban Development in the state:
A citizen from the Zamzam told her story and the terrible suffering of the camp’s people who spend long hours getting water. She said: “In this hot month of Ramadan, we are spending three consecutive days in queues for a gallon of salty water which is causing us much sickness. Where is humanity here and where are those who are pretending to represent us?”
For his part Mr Ismail Ahmed Mohamed, Director of the water and environmental sanitation project, finally responded and called for an emergency meeting that would include the project manager from water sector, UNICEF, and a number of other UN, international, and national organizations. The meeting must discuss ways to ensure rapid intervention, especially in the IDP camps, and provide a detailed report on the current situation of the water services in Zamzam camp. They must affirm their full readiness to intervene in the emergency areas and fill the gaps that these areas suffer from.
Humanitarian plight requires urgent attention from all: conclusion
Despite the recent moves at the local level resulting from individual and collective calls by activists through social media channels, we believe that the local and central government have been much too slow in finding at least temporary solutions that would alleviate the terrible thirst afflicting the people of Zamzam. Moreover, there is also a general distrust of government promises: there is growing anger at its dishonouring of its commitments. What is clear is that the people here in Zamzam, and IDPs in general, have lost hope and faith in the government.
That’s why now many inhabitants are talking about popular initiatives at local level to find urgent solutions for these dire situations. In fact, the repair and maintenance of a portable water pump does not exceed 3,500 dollars; but it is clear the government is unwilling to provide these simple solutions to IDPs and this where the hidden agenda of Government of Sudan is exposed. We, through Team Zamzam, appeal, urge, and invite all the local charities and international humanitarian organizations, philanthropists, and those interested in responding to human suffering to join hands in responding to this humanitarian plight.
WORK IN LATE MARCH / APRIL BY TEAM ZAMZAM
Ramadan package for vulnerable IDPs
The month of Ramadan in Sudan is the only month of the year when Sudanese people have a powerful craving for sugar. Sugar during Ramadan in Sudan is an essential commodity, heavily consumed in various locally made juices and soups for breakfast. That is why when the month of Ramadan approaches, the price of sugar in Sudan rises dramatically, even though Sudan is a sugar-producing country. After a thorough survey in studying people’s needs, we have decided to spend 75% of the monthly budget [for supplies] on buying sugar to be distributed to the poorest groups in Zamzam as well as one other poorest neighbourhoods in El Fasher. 28 bags of 50kg sugar were purchased and distributed accordingly:
The number of beneficiaries:
- 53 families. Zamzam section A
- 48 families. Zamzam section B
- 61 families. Zamzam section C
- 57 families. Zamzam section D
- 59 families in the Busharyia neighbourhood of El Fasher
A total of 278 families each received 10 pounds for all of Ramadan
Hygiene kits Package
(Distribution of hygiene kits has been suspended until next month due to other necessary priorities.)
Accompanying patients and women to hospitals (one of the most important tasks taken on by the entire Team Zamzam staff):
• A total of 42 adult patients and 11 children complaining of various illness have been accompanied to different hospitals in El Fasher for treatment.
• Total of 23 pregnant women were accompanied to obstetrics and gynecology wards in El Fasher for medical consultation.
• 1 fistula patient has been accompanied to hospital for treatment.
• 2 visits were made to the hospital to check the conditions of 4 children and a number of adults who were injured recently in the latest attacks on East Jabal Mara.
Assessment activities in Zamzam IDP camp
- 22 survey visits have been carried in 11 neighbourhoods to inspect living conditions, focusing on sanitation, water shortages, and other issues of concern to the camp’s inhabitants.
Female Genital Circumcision
Four meeting were held with women leaders within the camp, at various locations, to discuss the psychological impact of female genital circumcision on young girls, and how to prevent this practice from continuing. As the result of this meeting, a new volunteer group has been set up to lunch new initiative for raising awareness.
Since the coming of the month of Ramadan, the movement of people during daytime has significantly decreased because of high temperatures, especially after midday. As a consequence, the daily program of counseling sessions has been shifted from daylight to the time after breakfast hours and in the evening from 9pm to midnight. Despite this slight change in our daily schedule, the programme continues with high success rates.
Ultimately, this continuing need for counseling sessions reflects the grim status quo Darfur and the continuing, indeed accelerating sexual violence in rural areas and villages. What has made this program so fruitful is the collective ambition and the remarkable determination of the counselors, who tirelessly work day and night to create a lasting and friendly sanctuary, rescuing many young girls from suicidal tendencies. Because of this program, many have found renewed purpose in life, while many others have their turned fragilities to strength in order to encourage their fellow victims to be brave and patient.
Every day, more and more girls and women share their horrors, with tears; but very often they leave the sessions with smiles and hopes visible on their frail faces.
- 29 group counseling sessions
- 53 individual counseling sessions
Total: 82 sessions:
- 13 attending for the first time
- 22 attending for the second time
- 17 attending for a third time
- 26 attending for a fourth (or more) time
Testimonial of survivor of Jebel Marra assault
Elham Abdul Rahman Siddiq, 23 years old is one of the victims of sexual violence in the recent attacks on the second of Ramadan in the East Jebel Marra area. Elham has lost both of her parents in attacks in 2006 when she was only a child and since then she grew up with her aunt in Zamzam camp until she got married in 2019. She had two children and now one of her children has gone missing since the attack on her village on the second of April 2022.
From her bed side where she has been recovering from her wounds, she said:
“I was wakened by screaming coming from my cousin’s house a few yards away from us. When I left my room I saw a massive fire already burning some of parts of external barriers that are made of straw. I panicked and ran inside my house to get my children out. I took my children and ran out of my house in hurry but they the attackers ran horses at us and I immediately fell on the ground.
“This is when I lost one of my children. After this, all I heard were the sounds of screaming by my children, heavy gunshots, and other people running away in panic. They hit me hard in the head and in the stomach with their feet until I vomited. By this time, I lost consciousness. Then the did whatever disgusting things the wished on me, and I just couldn’t fight back. During this, all I heard was one of them say, “kill this woman!” and another saying: “No we should leave her for the other guys who are still chasing slaves.” After this, the next thing I knew I was wakened by a group of people who were carrying two injured children.
“After they got me here [Zamzam], my family took me to the hospital and had several stitches to my head. Thank God the bleeding had stopped, but I still feel serious pain in my left hand. I had two fractures. But other bruises are disappearing slowly. Now I wish for is to find my son as soon as possible. Please help me to find his whereabouts.
“Many people came here to bring me medicine, food, and some fruits. Many nice people from Team Zamzam with big hearts made me feel emotional. I thank everyone for their support.”