From the coordinating counselor of Team Zamzam (translated by Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen):
This report for the month of June focuses mainly on highlighting the daily suffering caused by a widespread health crisis, malnutrition, food shortages, and the unexpected plight and challenges that confront those who have left the IDP camps—at least temporarily—in search of a better life in the agricultural areas in the rural of Darfur.
Appeals concerning the health crisis in Zamzam camp
The head of the neighbourhood Committee for sector D in Zamzam camp said in a hand-written letter to Zamzam team:
“I hope that this message through you will reach the international health organizations and the national health funds section of North Darfur state. We have been suffering from an absence of basic services in the displacement camps for years now. It’s shameful we are being deprived that one of the most basic services that a Sudanese person generally enjoys by virtue of health insurance.”
“When we talk about health insurance in the general sense, it is a compulsory tax that deducts money from employees for treatment. We, as IDPs, know that there are parties that have taken care to pay the insurance bills to the fund, whether monthly or annually. We are the residents of Zamzam camp, 450,000 people or more; and more than 90% of the camp’s population are not covered by the health insurance umbrella. We have one only health insurance medical centre and it does not have integrated medical services, specialists, or medicines for chronic diseases. For more than two months the centre has been closed and we do not know the reason.”
“Firstly, we demand the following:
 We ask the responsible authorities to expedite the reopening of the centre.
 Freeze the balances paid to the national health insurance funds, El Fasher Branch (for a period of two months), because during this time treatment was not available.
 Recruit new stuff and open employment opportunities for camp residents who work in the health field
 Introduce new insurance policies for displaced people and integrate them into the national health insurance umbrella.”
Severe malnutrition is looming over the camps
Severe malnutrition and an acute shortage of basic necessities hang heavily over many camps. The people of the camps in Darfur, and Zamzam camp in particular (it is the second largest camp in Darfur has experienced an unprecedented worsening of economic and security conditions. The extremely turbulent security situation and ever worsening economic conditions have contributed to creating an unstable social reality, which is forcing most young people to drop out of school in search of a daily livelihood, typically in large cities for marginal jobs in which they are often exploited.
Many young people have been forced to leave Darfur in search of a better life to save their families who are suffering in displacement camps. Several hundred of these young men who escaped from the hellish circumstances of camps like Zamzam, searching for a better life for their families, have lost their lives—often dying of thirst in the Sahara Desert while they are trying to reach North African countries such Libya. There they are often exploited by human traffickers and held captive by gold-mine traders many months.
Today in Sudan, more children than ever who have fled the IDP camps of Darfur and are scattered within the country and in neighbouring countries. Many have become homeless in the streets of large cities within their country, and many become stateless in neighbouring countries.
Those who have managed to escape the terrible malnutrition and the miseries of IDPs have taken risky adventures to cross both the desert and the Mediterranean, but their numbers represent only a tiny percentage of successful flights—less than 2% of the fleeing population.
The main reason for this scattering and fleeing of children from IDP camps is the slow, withering malnutrition that has define life in Darfur for many years. They are also fleeing the insecurity that threatens their lives.
Malnutrition in the Darfur camps has caused the daily death of many children from starvation. Malnutrition began to increase dramatically in 2009, when the former regime deliberately expelled many international humanitarian organizations from Darfur. The ensuing crisis has worsened in recent years as the authoritarian al-Bashir regime tried aggressively to dismantle the camps by means of starvation.
This deliberate, policy directed against the camps—pursued aggressively by the former regime—had the assistance of the governor of North Darfur state at the time, Othman Kiber, and has resulted in continuing economic difficulties for the vast majority of IDP’S. The policies have also generated additional hardships on Darfuri society, creating severe psychological hardships in the lives of millions. Countless displaced persons have had their names removed from lists for humanitarian assistance.
Daily starvation and malnutrition are not a new thing for camp residents, especially the people of Zamzam who long ago lost their hopes and confidence in the international community. But now the situation is becoming increasingly difficult: the minimum food requirement of one daily meal is becoming increasingly scarce for the more than 90% of the population whose lives used to depend on agriculture.
What has also contributed to the deepening of the crisis in the lives of IDPs is the growing insecurity and lawlessness that we witnessed in the area to southwest of Zamzam camp. This is crucial because in normal circumstances this area is considered the nearest agricultural production area for many inhabitants. Their lives depend on farming millet and groundnuts, but for almost two years this area has come under occupation by ruthless and heavily armed Janjaweed.
The militias who control this agricultural area are groups that receive protection from the political and security sectors at the state level. They have now imposed a new reality, as most of the agricultural areas in this region of North Darfur are now in a military grip. The agricultural land on which the people of these camps depend is now controlled by these militias; as a consequence, anyone wanting to farm either has to rent a farm from them—or have to work for only half of what they produce.
All this adds to the daily difficulties and challenges that face the people of Zamzam camp, from severe food shortages to new security threats. There are constant threats against IDPs and extortion efforts by the armed militias lurking only few a kilometres away from the outskirts of the camp.
To conclude this part with the words of one of the camp Sheik who said, “We are caught up between the hell of the Janjaweed bullets and painfully slow death from starvation and the collective human conscience appears to have forgotten our just cause.”
Follow up families from Zamzam to East Darfur
Team Zamzam traveled to inspect the living conditions and overall situation of the 172 families who left Zamzam camp last year, traveling to East Darfur for a few days before the rainy season of 2021. This decision to make the trip was taken after careful consideration and evaluation and the repeated calls from the people who had reached the town Shaeria. The team have decided to see for themselves what is going on the ground. The trip to the town was made with an understanding of the historical background of this marginalized area.
Such a trip is fraught with security risks because of its remoteness and isolation from major cities. But the emotional attachment of a great many of the residents of Zamzam camp to this area is rooted to a time before the displacement of 2005, and this provided extra motivation for us to explore the situation.
Historical background of the area
Shaeria is a town located in East Darfur State, one of the states of the Darfur region in the southwest of the Republic of Sudan. The region borders the northwest region of what is now South Sudan. As for the town, it is located on the northeastern side of the city of Nyala, which is 81 km away; it is surrounded on the eastern side by the Riel mountains and the Adula mountains. The importance of the location of the town of Shaeria lies in the fact that it is in the northwest region of the state, and thus has common borders with the state of North Darfur, South Darfur and Central Darfur. This has led to economic activity and exchanges in the region, and these areas generally lie within the rich savannah belt. There are herbaceous forests in which rain falls and the vegetation cover is widespread, though less densely than in tropical forests. The savannah is highly suitable for grazing and agriculture because of the character of the land and the brightness of the sun.
The climate in this region is considered a tropical desert climate, meaning that its winds are active and the temperature range is wide throughout the day. The temperature rises somewhat in the summer, with highs ranging between 35 – 40 degrees Celsius in the period between March and September. This decreases in the fall to reach an average of 18 degrees Celsius, while in the cold nights in winter it may decrease to 5 degrees Celsius. As for rain, it is seasonal summer.
A few of the city’s residents work in commerce and transportation because of the city’s pivotal location, which links it to three states. But most of the population works in the field of agriculture, growing corn and millet in small quantities for self-consumption, and field crops such as peanuts, hibiscus, and sesame in quantities for economic purposes. There are also shepherds who take advantage of the nature of the flat grassland to graze sheep, goats, cows, and camels. It is worth noting that the people of this underdeveloped region, while they depend on agriculture and grazing extensively, do not have advanced farming technologies, so their occupation does not contribute to realizing a large return.
Displacement to IDPS of North Darfur sine 2005
The history of the displacement of the people of the town of Shaeria
At the beginning of 2003, when the war began in Darfur and the crisis escalated between the Sudanese government and the armed movements from Darfur determined to resist a prolonging of marginalization. The al-Bashire regime in Khartoum had intentionally pitted certain ethnic groups against other groups in the town for the purpose of creating a rift among the people who had lived in peace and security side by side for more than half a century. The regime succeeded in its plans and the entire town and its surrounding villages fell under grip of regime-affiliated tribal militias that aimed to create widespread carnage and terror.
Therefore, between 2003 and late 2004, the inhabitants of this town and neighbouring villages were held captive by a horrific terror, enduring constant raiding, harassment, and intimidation; finally many were forced to flee to IDP camps. The majority of the residents of this town have sought refuge in camps between Zamzam in North Darfur and Al-Salam camp in Nyala; this began in earnest in early 2005, and since then these people have lived in these camps under very difficult circumstances. To this day they have no prospect of returning back to their beloved town and villages.
The living conditions of those who returned there for farming
Returning to these deserted areas may be one of the most difficult choices that people of Zamzam have faced. But for them, there were only two options: either continuing to endure the suffering and hardship of life in the camps, or take a very large risk in order to live with dignity. But life in the deserted areas, which are remote from the big cities, has proved no better than existence in the huts of the camps.
While those in the camps experience daily suffering and food shortages that have become unbearably difficult, living in these remote areas has proved to be completely lacking in basic needs, such as electricity and hospitals. In addition to this, the absence of state agencies in the area has created a large vacuum which has been filled by armed militias given heavy weaponry during the former regime.
The militias who control this part of the deserted areas have set their own laws regarding taxes, farm rent, and everything else concerning life and living. These local militias use various methods—from gang rape, murder, the burning of houses, and confiscation of people’s property. The militias use extortion and blackmail against any citizen who dares to challenge their authority in the area or hesitates to pay farming rent or “taxes.”
The rate of repeated sexual assaults on young girls and overall sexual violence in these deserted areas is very high compared to other areas around the major cities; the methods and tactics which are used by the criminal militias are utterly horrifying.
The cause of the rise in sexual violence in these deserted areas is firstly directly related to the absence of state agencies, such as police and other law and enforcement entities. Sexual violence is often used to extort from families “taxes” and rent for their own farms, from which they were forcibly displaced almost two decades ago. The several testimonies which we collected randomly from several victims not only reflect the scale of these heinous crimes in these remote areas, in various parts of Darfur, but it also exposes the brutality of these militias and character of post-revolution Sudan.
Testimonies of victims of sexual violence in the area
Toqoyi Adam Hussein, 45-year-old from Zamzam:
“I came to this area with my family last year after I became fed up with living in a camp for years in an impossible situation; and at first I thought that we would live in safety and security on our farms. But things had become clear to us after we began work on our farms.” Toqoyi continued: “Last year, just when the harvest season was to start, armed militias/Janjaweed came and asked us to give them 50 percent of the harvest that we had planted—peanuts, some hibiscus, millet, and some sesame. But I’ve told them I won’t give them this much of my work of over three months; but they didn’t take no for an answer.”
She continued: “After about four days, the same militia forces came back in a group of ten men to attack us in the morning without any warning and they tied us up and we were separated from each other for one week. During this period, we were badly beaten, sexually violated, and our hair shaved to humiliate us more.”
Toqoyi then said: “I finally gave up to save my daughter from the indignation of being violated by an old man who continued to assault her sexually for one week. Four months after this attack, it became clear that my sixteen-year-old daughter had become pregnant as a result of this sexual violence, although the fetus was aborted prematurely. My daughter’s life was destroyed. Ever since that attack, she has changed dramatically and is very often deeply depressed—and I feel guilty for bringing her with me. We want to go back to any place on the earth where there is a sense of safety and peace, but we can’t even afford to return to El-Fasher.”
Zubida Mohamed Mahdi, 24-year-old originally from Um-Ashaba, currently lives in Zamzam:
“I was taken hostage by Janjaweed militias for one month. During the period of my captivity, I went through horrible things day and night. They beaten me unconsciously, they took turns [raping] me, they forced me to wash their dirty clothes, and they forced me to eat their leftover. While they were doing this to me, they constantly insulted me verbally on my race and colour of my skin and eventually my family had to sell off everything they owned, from our few goats to what we have harvested during the rainy season, to free me from Janjaweed.”
Zubida continued: “After this incident, my entire life had been crushed down to the lowest point. For nearly a year I have sunk into a small corner of isolation where I often spend nights and days in the dark, thinking of ending my life. In those days, I didn’t care much about myself and life had become tasteless and utterly without meaning. I couldn’t think about another life waiting for me ahead.
“Finally, my mother brought into the house some strange women who later helped me to defeat my depression.” She continued: “After my mother introduced them to me, the sisters from Team Zamzam kept coming back to our house and each time they spent hours trying all sorts of chats on every level of social affairs. Then one day I found myself not starting to talk with them but even sometimes called them when they didn’t show up on time. Listening to the Sisters was a life-changing experience—a way to rediscover myself once again and reconcile myself with my being.
“After such an emotional experience of lows, I began to care for others, love myself more, and began to love participating in helping those who are crushed down by the nightmares of the past events. There are many like me in this camp alone suffering in silence and a sense of guilt for something they are not guilty of and I want to help them to beat that deceptive spirit within their bodies. I thank everyone who helped me and I thank you Sisters for bringing me back to life.”
Work carried out during late May – June 20
8 field visits were recorded to check the conditions of the newly displaced from the recent events.
Team Zamzam team participated in 6 meetings with neighbourhood committees in various locations within the camp.
57 persons/patients suffering from different illnesses were accompanied to different hospitals and health centres within the city- El Fasher.
Team Zamzam had participated in various separate meeting with a women’s group to discuss issues and challenges facing women of Zamzam camp from domestic violence, depression, phenomenon of sexual violence and how to prevent genital mutilation.
13 field visits carried out in four corners of the camp to inspect and evaluate the functioning of water pumps.
1 fistula patient accompanied to the surgical hospitals in El Fasher and assisted following surgery
Basic necessities distribution (through June 20, 2022)
The rise of prices and the free fall of local currency has had a catastrophic impact on the average family in Sudan. The ability simply to survive, to obtain the most basic necessities, has become a grim struggle for many families in Darfur. And particularly in the IDP camps, the vast majority of the camp camp’s inhabitants suffer from shortages of everything. In the last three months, the prices of basic necessities such as sugar, flour, cooking oil, and other essential commodities have increased by at least 40%.
Other important foods, such as meats, have come to be luxury items that people can’t even think about, despite the fact that Sudan is one of the biggest exporterers of livestock and meat to Middle Eastern countries. Presently in the IDP camps a majority of people cannot afford to buy even a pound of sugar, let alone think about meat.
The main focus of our distribution is what people want most: sugar, flour and cooking oil are the priorities. Accordingly, Team Zamzam purchased sugar, flour, cooking oil, and pasta to supply the most impoverished families in the four sectors of the Zamzam.
256 families benefited from this distribution. Each family has received a ration of 6 pounds of sugar, 1 litre of oil, 1 kilo of flour and 1 kilo of pasta.
Other distributions and activities:
Women Hygiene kits:
Each kit contains one tube of toothpaste, one tube of shaving cream, two razor bundles containing twelve razors each, one tube of body cream, and one packet of menstruation cotton (containing six pieces each)
Number of beneficiaries: 24
Number of counseling sessions:
Individual counseling sessions: 72
Group counseling sessions: 34
Total of counseling sessions: 106