ANNEX to the August 22, 2023 Update: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
From the coordinating counselor of Team Zamzam, for period from the 3rd week of July to the 3rd week of August 2023
This report comes at a time when all of Darfur—especially Zamzam IDP camp and other IDP camps throughout Darfur—are suffering from the terror of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Janjaweed militias. This has coincided with outrageous increases in the prices of basic necessities—this because of the lack of all entry routes from the neighboring countries to and from Sudan. This in turn is due to the absence of security on trade routes; the exchange of foreign goods in Darfur comes only through the border town of Tina. During the current violence, with the many risks it generates, most of the roads from and to Darfur have been disrupted by the Janjaweed militias and the RSF. This catastrophic situation has led to the emergence of many diseases, which in turn have been the cause the death of thousands of people, mostly children and elderly people with chronic diseases. Most of North Darfur’s hospitals are completely out of service, with the exception of one hospital (Southern Hospital) in El Fasher; there are very few private clinics.
Team Zamzam made an assessment visit to displaced people in the nearby Lamina area in order to assist vulnerable families who were unable to leave their villages of origin because of the security situation. Team Zamzam was able to deliver basic necessities to their places of residence. During these assessment visits, we noticed a broad deterioration in living conditions and the serious difficulties faced by displaced persons in terms of health, education, and water. We collected the opinions and conducted interviews in different places within Zamzam; this was done during our distribution of basic necessities. These assessments show the extreme difficulty of living conditions. Given these present difficult challenges, people look to the future and see it as more frightening and even darker, with growing disregard for civilian security and absence of state authorities.
In addition, the Zamzam team conducted an inspection visit to the newly displaced people from Tawila locality, who are currently sheltering in Al Salam 56 and Al Salam 57 schools in the western part of the Zamzam camp. There are approximately 2,644 thousand families, with many malnourished children. These displaced people represent some of the worst cases in Zamzam, as they suffer from an acute shortage of medicines, food, and water—this is in addition to the heavy rains falling on them. With the heavy rains, there are a large number of children who have been suddenly separated from their families. Alarmingly, there are also many newborn children who are suffering from poor nutrition.
During these assessments of the camp, Team Zamzam noticed wave after wave of displaced people fleeing the fighting in the capital of South Darfur, Nyala. They have come to the capital of North Darfur state (El Fasher), as well as sheltering in either Zamzam or Abu Shouk IDP camp, which are already overcrowded and stretched beyond capacity.
The exact number of those fleeing the fighting in Nyala is not known, but Zamzam alone has received more than seven thousand displaced persons in the past two weeks. A government official—Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid in North Darfur, Abbas Youssef—said in a press statement that about 12,000 families entered North Darfur state in the space of three days because of the violence in Nyala.
The fleeing civilians are facing very difficult humanitarian and economic conditions in light of the poverty of the surrounding communities and the absence of any shelter provided by humanitarian organizations or United Nations agencies.
Deteriorating health conditions in the camp
The health situation inside the displacement camps, especially Zamzam camp, is extremely grim. Zamzam is considered one of the very largest camps in Darfur in terms of population. It is threatened by lack of basic services, particularly health care. There are only three primary health centers, of which the one run by Relief International is currently completely out of service. There is now a fourth center health center, operated by Doctors Without Borders/MSF), and it is the only one now working in Zamzam camp. But the biggest problem facing people is the shortage of essential medicines for camp residents.
Much of the difficulty lies in the effects of the current rainy season; this is a time when cases of malaria, infections, and diseases resulting from malnutrition rise among children and the elderly. This is especially true for children who have been displaced from Tawila locality in the past six months. There are no health organizations that support these cases inside the camp, and the only center that operates in the camp does not have the capacity for all in need. Patients suffer from severe stress, as in one day the health center receives an influx of 154 people, even as the camp’s population is half a million.
Moreover, the health situation is deteriorating throughout North Darfur, and this has a direct impact on the residents of the camps; the situation in Zamzam is no different from the rest of the camps in North Darfur. Those who are working in the only health center in Zamzam run by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are facing difficulties because of the impatience and frustration of patients.
The security and humanitarian situation in Zamzam
The security and humanitarian situations inside and surrounding Zamzam camp are catastrophic: people are facing one of the biggest disasters in the history of North Darfur. The prices for food and medicines increase every day, every hour. Killing, looting, and robberies in broad daylight in various neighborhoods are also on rise. The absence of security and stability has become the daily reality since fighting began in mid-April; it is now August. The Rapid Support Forces have become the main problem and represent a security threat to the lives of the poorest people. Zamzam has become a besieged camp on all sides except for the northeastern side leading to El Fasher. No one from Zamzam camp can leave for any reason to fetch simple things such as firewood, cattle, or straw for donkeys. Indeed, even the donkeys used as a means of transportation have died because of hunger. The agriculture season has been ruined for a third consecutive year.
There is also an increase in cases of kidnapping, and there are internal problems in the camp because of the indiscriminate proliferation of firearms; this has led to the death of many people. Without basic services, life in Zamzam has become very difficult and bitter. The schools of El Fasher in the northeast part are all occupied by Janjaweed militias and the inhabitants of neighbourhoods have been displaced within El Fasher.
The impact of price hikes on the citizens of the camps is quite noticeable; indeed, price hikes are considered a major factor in the catastrophe facing all displaced persons in Darfur, especially in the North Darfur IDP camps. The prices of all food products, including canned goods, are very high and beyond the reach of a great many because of the lack of family income sources. This follows from the fact that for years there has been an absence of agricultural production and employment; there has also been a disruption and closure of small work factories because of violence and insecurity. All this has had a great impact on citizens, especially Zamzam camp. During the past two weeks, many houses have become empty of food and drink because of the high prices. Today, a piece of laundry soap costs 1,000 Sudanese pounds, a bottle of cooking oil costs 2,000 Sudanese pounds, a pound of sugar costs 700 Sudanese pounds, and a kilo of onions costs 1,000 Sudanese pounds.
[Inflation in Darfur is estimated by Gaffar at 100% since the beginning of violence in April—ER]
The basic necessities for sustaining human life inside the camp are simply not being met. The IDP camps suffer from an almost complete absence of family income sources. This in turn has led camp youths to leave and in many cases to emigrate to foreign countries. Many boys gravitate to the gold mines and others to recruitment in the military camps, the so-called Duko Jawa.
Families with elderly members, those who are sick, and younger children remain in the camp, but their homes are empty of food and drink.
The absence of security, safety, and stability is one of the problems facing the displaced, as well as those inside the Zamzam camp. The camp is vastly over-stretched and exposed to all too many dangers. The problems are in large measure due to the withdrawal of humanitarian organizations, especially the UN’s World Food Program and others that in the past worked to provide food. Previously, most of the camp’s population depended on these humanitarian organizations to provide them with food; they also depended on international relief organizations working in the field of medicine and providing food for children suffering from acute malnutrition. Presently, the distribution of nutritional biscuits has ended entirely. Other charitable organization—supporting women and children—are also now out of service.
Sexual violence near Zamzam camp
It is all too clear that sexual violence—ethnically-targeted rape and gang-rape—is a psychological disaster that women, young girls, and children continue to suffer from. In the IDP camps they have suffered for years in silence, especially Zamzam, which is generally considered to be one of the most vulnerable to sexual violence.
Because Zamzam is one of the largest camps in Darfur and one of the most vulnerable, sexual violence is an extremely serious issue. Rape occurs frequently in the Zamzam camp area, and those recently displaced in Tawila Locality witnessed a great any cases of kidnapping and the rape of girls by Janjaweed militias inside the Tawila camps. This was particularly true in the Rwanda camp before the displaced persons in the camp were yet again displaced.
A brutal attack took place two days before the displacement. Five victims left Rwanda camp to fetch basic necessities from the market which was about six kilometers from the camp. They were attacked and kidnapped by the Janjaweed militias/Rapid Support Forces in vehicles armed with heavy weapons. After the kidnapping, they were transferred on their vehicles to the Koldi Qalb station; there followed a fierce competition between militiamen in choosing and distributing the five victims between them fairly; this resulted in a quarrel and gun fighting.
One of the victims of this brutal assault said:
“There was a quarrel and fighting within the Janjaweed/RSF; we were tied to a tree until after the quarrel ended. The one of them came to me and he appeared to be the leader of the group and took me with him into the private tent; then he asked me to take off my clothes, but when I refused, he hit me in the face and tore off my clothes with a knife and began to beat me until I fainted. After this, other Janjaweed began to take turns on me. It was hurting too much, but the more I screamed for help the more they beat me and threw humiliating insults on me.”
The victims said that other four girls have suffered the same fate in five different tents.
Another victim of the same incident said:
“The Janjaweed militiaman grabbed me by the hand and took me inside his tent. I was afraid to death and trembling from fear. When I entered I saw there were a few other men sitting and drinking alcohol together and all of them wearing the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) uniform. After that, one of them asked me which tribe I belong to, and I told them that I am from the Tunjur tribe. After that, he laughed sarcastically and said to me, “You are lucky.” He then asked me ‘Why are you lucky…don’t you know?’ and I told him, ‘I don’t know.’
“He replied, ‘If you were from the Fur, the Zaghawa, or from those rotten ones, we would have treated you with anger, revenge and rabid hatred.’ I do not remember their number, but they took turns with me for three consecutive periods before they released me with the others on the outskirts of Zamzam camp in the middle of the night.”
After their ordeals at the hands of Janjaweed, the five victims were visited by the counselors of Team Zamzam, who have provided continuous psychological and moral support. After preliminary recovery, one of the victims said:
“We were raped and yet we thought that it’s our fault and shameful; but now, thanks to the sisters from Zamzam, we have overcome this old negative attitude—because the silence of the victims that causes many other diseases, and we need intensive training courses and advice to avoid any harm to us in the future.”
Thankfully, two of them have fully recovered but the rest are still attending counseling season on regular basis and the Zamzam team will exert all its energies to help them until they fully recover. Because the determination of these girls is what drives team Zamzam counselors with powerful motivation, more energy, a sense of purpose to their mission, and a steadfastness before any challenges.
A statement of Appreciation and thanks mother of fistula patients
Touma Ibrahim Muhammad, 46 years old, mother of four girls and one boy, and the mother of a fistula patient, said:
“For two years and a half years, I could not sleep normally as others do. This was because my daughter suffered a great deal from a fistula resulting from rape. During her illness, every moment of my life I was in complete anxiety—because we did not know what she was suffering from. As a mother, I tried everything possible to find something that would cure her. We thought that she was suffering from insanity or malignant diseases that could not be cured. For over two years, every day she would stay awake until midnight, and cried from pain until the morning.
“But praise be to God and thanks be to God, after a long patience, she was rescued with the help of team Zamzam [i.e., received fistula surgical repair in El Fasher—ER]. I have nothing to offer or repay you—please accept my prayers through my words and heart. I pray to Allah to bless you all here in life and hereafter for your good deeds.”
Three women/girls received fistula reparative surgery in the previous month.
Other work carried out during July-August
Distribution of basic necessities (type of food and number of beneficiaries):
The quantity and type of foodstuffs distributed as follows:
 16 bags of sugar containing 50 kilos per bag
 24 packages of pasta containing 40 small packages, each weighing 500 grams
 8 package of washing soap each containing 40 bars of soap
 6 package of tea each contained small package containing 75 teabags
The number of beneficiary families is 350. This includes 150 families with elderly people,
97 families with members having disabilities, 62 families the orphans and widows, and 41 children without parents.
Other notable work of Team Zamzam in the previous month:
 22 assessment visits carried out inside the four sections of the camp.
 6 visits to new shelters of those who recently fled from Nyala.
 53 patients—including pregnant women, fistula patients, children, and adults suffering from various illness were accompanied to different hospitals and clinics in El-Fasher for treatment.