ANNEX to October 30, 2023 Update: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
From the coordinating counselor for Team Zamzam (received October 29, 2023)
This report is offered in light of the increasingly turbulent situation in Darfur. It highlights the increasingly desperate living conditions and an alarming deteriorating security situation on the ground. Presently, the entire region of Darfur is living in fear and terror: there is a growing uncertainty after the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militias seized Nyala, capital of South Darfur State. Nyala is widely considered the second economic capital in Sudan because of its strategic geographical location.
The importance of Nyala is in part a function of its bordering the Central African Republic to the southwest and South Sudan to the immediate south. Nyala had witnessed seven months of continuous deadly fighting between the Sudanese army and the RSF—fighting that led to the killing of hundreds of people, with several hundred injured, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of families, leaving their homes.
After the fall of Nyala this month (October 26), several neighborhoods were targeted by the RSF, forcing a mass exodus, with the majority fleeing towards El Fasher. The latest reports out from eyewitnesses speak of a terror beyond comprehension, with many revenge killings by the RSF based on ethnicity, The RSF and their Janjaweed allies are looting homes, breaking shops, and burning much of the city—all this in broad daylight.
The residents of the city of Nyala had withstood more than six months of continuous, indiscriminate shelling. They were experiencing hunger, thirst, and a cutoff of electricity. These last weeks of increasingly violent clashes have forced more than half the population to flee to two directions, leaving their beloved city. That city exists at the mercy of the barbarous RSF and ruthless Janjaweed looters, whose only aim is to pillage and destroy as much as possible.
In the past two weeks alone, more than 300,000 families have fled from Nyala to El Fasher, seeking safety in the already stretched and overcrowded capital of North Darfur which itself is not entirely safe from RSF’S attacks.
The fall of Nyala to the RSF comes after the fall of El Geneina, capital of West Darfur State. Since last June the Inhabitants of the city, especially the non-Arab Masalit tribal group, have endured the barbarism of RSF and grave human rights violations, which has forced another mass displacement: more than 700,000 people have fled to the eastern part of neighboring Chad. [There have been more than 10,000 ethnically-targeted killings of Masalit civilians—ER]
As October comes to a close, there is widespread panic and fear hangs heavy over the people of North Darfur. As expected, the war that began on April 15 in Khartoum has now spread to Darfur, where crops and villages are burned by the same notorious Janjaweed militias who have terrorized the citizens of Darfur for twenty years.
Hope lives on in Zamzam
Despite the daily difficulties, the constant state of fear, and the serious living challenges, hope and solidarity are the common denominator that bind people together. Team Zamzam has been a significant part of this resilience. Continuous work of more than three years—providing humanitarian aid, health guidance, and therapeutic guidance to victims of sexual violence—was celebrated on the 1st of October in unique humanitarian fashion: Team Zamzam provided substantial fresh lunches for more than 1,500 displaced children and their families, all of whom are suffering from malnutrition.
On the day of celebration the lunch event was held inside Al Salam 56 School, which is located on the western side of the camp. Since war began on April 15, this elementary school has become a shelter for several hundred displaced families from Tawila locality and Nyala.
The lunch event was prepared under the supervision of Team Zamzam with coordination of community committees and the shelter center services committee. The events started at 1:00pm and ran through 7pm in order to make sure everyone was fed. The total number of beneficiaries was 2,136–people from all segments of society (children, women, people with special needs, orphans, widows, and those without shelter in the camp.
Testimonials from inside the shelter center
Young local volunteer Adam Mahmoud, one of the heads of the community committees to serve the newly displaced from his locality in Tawila, said: “Since our arrival until now, no one else has intervened to help us other than charitable hands. It should not be forgotten that a great number of displaced persons live in extremely difficult conditions, and even the charitable groups only a part of what is needed.”
In is indeed a very difficult situation for so many; if people find breakfast, there is no lunch or dinner. Hunger has become a “relative” of every displaced person in Zamzam.
Adam concluded by saying: “Today is the most beautiful day for us, and all people are pleased with this wonderful humanitarian initiative; and on behalf of these poor people, we bend down to raise our hats to Team Zamzam counselors for their tremendous efforts.
For her part, Hawa Abdullah, who is one of the displaced from the Tawila locality, is now among those who live in the shelter center. She cares alone for seven children, all of them without the father they lost in June 2023. Hawa said:
“My husband was killed by the Rapid Support militia three months ago while we were fleeing from an attack by Janjaweed and making our way to Zamzam camp. Two of my daughters were raped by these militias, and since we arrived here, we have continued to suffer from lack of food on a daily basis. But today, thanks to Team Zamzam’s initiative, my children have eaten well—what they have been dreaming of for weeks and months. We were even able to take some food with us for the coming days.”
Hawa continued, saying; “Today I am very pleased with the fresh food that Team Zamzam and its volunteers provided us with. I cannot find the words to express my happiness, but I renew my thanks once again to them since my arrival here.” She continued by saying: “Team Zamzam counselors have not only fed us with fresh, delicious food, but they have been helping my two daughters who were on the verge of psychological collapse.”
As for Hafez Muhammad Abkar, 62 years old and a deputy sheikh of one of the villages that recently experienced mass displacement, said: “What you people from Team Zamzam have provided today is a great and unique humanitarian gesture, and we hope that others will replicate your example in fulfilling their duty to those less fortunate.” He said: “The humanitarian spirit lies not simply in the quantity of what is provided, but in exemplifying solidarity and bringing everyone together to teach them the value of such solidarity.
Needs and recommendations of the displaced persons of the Al Salam School shelter center
 The need for effective assistance from all philanthropists and humanitarian organizations, because this center is in dire need of all basic services.
 The necessity of providing people the means for an income and expanding ways to make a living. The conditions of this camp make it especially difficult for women, children, and the disabled to make a living.
 Appeal to international relief organizations to redouble their efforts because hunger is threatening many families.
 Providing means for the protection of oneself and one’s children, who are constantly exposed to risks such as theft, drugs, child recruitment, and exploitation of children for personal interests.
 The need to raise awareness, training local volunteers to help in rehabilitation following traumatic events; this would be greatly helped with the building of a youth center.
 Not only is there malnutrition, but many diseases such as malaria, wide-ranging infections, and. There is need for immediate intervention by health organizations to address this problem.
 The necessity of providing sources of drinking water because the majority of water in the camp is not suitable for drinking; most of the displaced do not have access to sources of pure water, as most of the water pumps need repair.
 The necessity of opening child-friendly courtyard centers inside the camp to protect children and their rights.
 Children need training and awareness workshops because they are suffering from depression because of the lack of schooling.
The health situation in Zamzam camp
If health means freedom of the body from all diseases—whether bacterial, viral, or the effects of deteriorating mental health—the health crisis in Zamzam camp has reached its peak, and we have very few functioning health centers in the camp, and the health needs of vast numbers of people are not being met.
Reasons for this deteriorating health include:
 Malnutrition. An increasing number of the elderly and children are dying every day because of malnutrition and a decrease in the number of main meals. Even one meal, whether a source of protein, starch, or sugar, is inevitably a meal without key nutrients.
 Lack of medicine and high prices: As most of the medicines we have in the camp have expired, and the Ministry of Health has not implemented a new protocol regarding pharmacy and toxicology management, too often diseases are caused by these expired medicines used in treatment.
 Population growth: The population density in Zamzam camp is very high because of continuous displacement, terrible insecurity, and severe limitations of residential space. This contributes significantly to the spread of both bacterial and viral diseases, especially among infants.
The Zamzam Health Committee has confirmed the spread of the hepatitis C virus at a high rate; and the spread of a group of sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and HIV) is due to a lack of cultural sexual awareness, as well as public crowding.
 Psychological state of Zamzam IDPs: The psychological state of the displaced people in the camp is affected by the absence of support and psychological guidance, largely because of extremely difficult economic conditions. Insecurity is rampant; the lack of many forms of care and nutritional deficits weighs heavily on people. Many residents of Zamzam have not adapted well to life in the camp. This is the result of a lack of resources to prepare newly displaced rural populations for radically different living conditions.
 Closing of health units: A patient may travel a long distance to reach a health unit only to find that it is closed. There is a lack of medical staff and inadequate supplies of medicine. Delays in treatment often allow a disease to spread throughout the body. In short, the health situation is unstable and unsafe—exacerbated by an acute lack of sanitation.
Living conditions in Zamzam camp
The economic conditions facing the camp’s people are very difficult, as all commercial activities have stopped, whether import or export, due to the closure of all commercial routes between cities and localities. There is a dire lack of currency, exchangeable goods, and agricultural crops. The people of the camps are going through very difficult economic times.
Moreover, roads and entrances to the camp are unsafe. And with the failure of the third consecutive agricultural season—on which all residents of the state and Zamzam camp in particular depend—the outlook is increasingly bleak. All this has badly exacerbated the food crisis. If this war does not end, and if humanitarian organizations are not able to intervene on an urgent basis, the current disaster will only grow.
Food support from the UN’s World Food Program was cut off some time ago, and the families depending entirely on the World Food Program are now living in the worst of conditions.
Zamzam IDP camp is currently besieged by the Janjaweed on all four sides; residents of the camp rightly believe that their lives are at risk. The war in Sudan, which began on April 15th of this year, has entered its seventh month. Fighting between the two sides—the regular Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces—shows no signs of ending. The belligerents have refused to respond to the calls made by UN, regional countries, international intermediaries, and national initiatives to stop the fighting. This has ensured a major humanitarian crisis. This fighting has forced millions of terrified people to flee from their cities, towns, and villages to internally displaced persons camps, including Zamzam.
Meanwhile, many hundreds of thousands of civilians have taken migratory routes to neighboring countries such as Chad, Egypt, Uganda, and South Sudan. UN statistics indicate that many thousands have been killed and more than six million have been displaced or turned into refugees. The RSF continue to carry out all sorts of heinous crimes, from rape to killing, which has been a primary cause of this mass exodus and flight towards IDP camps. The pace of fighting continues at extremely high levels because of the absence of a political solution to the crisis.
Currently, the Rapid Support Forces and their Janjaweed militias are stationed a few kilometers from Zamzam camp, in Qalab, and Tabit localities—halfway between Nyala and El Fasher. Since the fifteenth of April, they have deployed their forces to west of Zamzam and then quickly spread out in all directions to besiege civilians and El Fasher, closing some roads into the city. Today, Zamzam camp has come under fire from the Rapid Support Forces.
All kinds of crime, from human rights violations to genocidal sexual violence, have been committed by members of the Rapid Support Forces and its militias—inside and outside. Tawila and the surrounding villages, which witnessed terrible RSF brutality in June and July 2023, are a major source of newly displaced persons.
We are in the midst of a dangerous violent war, on the verge, one that will likely affect the population of the entire region. Since the start of the war, many families have been killed either because of indiscriminate shelling or attacks by Janjaweed and RSF militias—and the violence continues to spread.
Those who recently fled to Zamzam camp from Nyala are now living under extremely harsh conditions. Zamzam, in turn, has been perilously close to the violent battles between the Sudan Armed Forces, stationed in the center of the city of El Fasher, and the Rapid Support Forces, which control some areas of the city.
This led to the killing of hundreds of displaced people and civilians from Zamzam and Abu Shouk camps. The displacement of thousands to other cities and states, where humanitarian conditions are deteriorating, has had all too predictable consequences for health, food, and security. In this particular case, Zamzam camp and its environs were not spared from repeated attacks, leaving displaced victims estimated at hundreds, and the camp is still besieged from all directions by the Janjaweed militias and Rapid Support Forces; additionally, local cities and villages have fallen under their control.
Zamzam camp, despite the difficulty of accepting new IDPs, has been receiving thousands of newly displaced people fleeing various localities, villages, and towns.
Sexual violence and the suffering of the victims
Sexual violence and rape continue on the outskirts of Zamzam camp, and during the current month October alone four new cases have been reported:
Among the latest four victims, there is a child who does not exceed the age of eleven years, and one of the victims is Habiba Ibrahim Abdullah, is 21 years old:
At six o’clock in the morning, Habiba left Zamzam camp, where she has lived with her family for several years, accompanying her little sister on their way to the city of El Fasher to work there as a cleaner. They left the camp and. within half a kilometer, a car with Rapid Support Forces license plates approached them on the roadside and offered them free ride to downtown El Fasher, but they refused their offer saying they were not heading to El-Fasher:
Habiba said: “They immediately left us and headed towards El Fasher, but after about three minutes, we were surprised from behind. Two of them got out of their car and pointed their guns at us and said ‘jump on the car you little dirty black beasts.’ My sister screamed as loud as she could while shivering from fear but there was no one around to help us. Then they drove us for about an hour in the area west of camp. Then they began their sexual assaults: two of them took turns on me while the third one assaulted my sister.”
The two victims were sexually assaulted for nearly three hours before their attackers left them in place in very difficult circumstances. After the assault, the younger girl couldn’t walk because of the intensity of pain and the older sister had to carry her on back for three hours before being helped by passers-by to reach the camp. The two victims have been taken to hospital in El Fasher for treatment and doctor confirmed that they have been sexually assaulted by force. Since the events, the two sisters got into a deep depression and seemed on the verge of self-harm but for a quick intervention by counselors from Team Zamzam; the counselors are helping them to recover gradually.
Another victim, Samira Hassan Yaqoub, is 20 years old and from Zamzam. The location of the incident involving her was west of Zamzam camp. The date of the sexual assault was this month (October 2023), and has resulted in severe depression.
Yet another victim, Aziza Al-Duma Muhammad, is 17 years old. The location of the incident was southwest of Zamzam, a few kilometers from Tawila. Again the date of the incident was this month, and the victim is also in a state of severe depression.
Testimony from a recovered fistula patient
Rawida Khalil Ahmed is 22 years old and currently lives in Zamzam with her family. Ruwaida was diagnosed with fistula in 2021, but she hid her illness for a year, fearing the stigma she would endure. Finally her condition became intolerably painful and disabling. She said: “I was scared that people would find out what I was suffering from, but finally my friend convinced me to approach the Sisters of team Zamzam to reveal what I was going through.
After waiting in an agony of pain for some time, I was taken to the hospital for treatment; there the doctor told me that the fistula was in an early stage and could be treated with a light surgical procedure and medicines. Thanks to the Sisters and God, thank God, I was treated within two months and now the pain has completely disappeared.”
Rawida said by way of conclusion: “Thank you Sisters for saving my life, and I wish speedy recovery for those who are still suffering.”
Additional activities and the work completed during the current month (October 2023)
• Distribution of basic necessities. Basic necessities composed of sugar, pasta, and lentils have been distributed. Number of beneficiary families: 165 families; number of individuals benefited: 338 individuals.
• Provision on October 1 of a fresh lunch for some 1,500 children. The lunch event was organised by Team Zamzam, which cooked this ample fresh meal, which fed not only more than 1,500 children but those in their families also suffering from severe malnutrition.
• Three fistula patients have been accompanied for medical treatment, receiving both pre- and post-operative care.
• Water pump repair: Thanks to our donors, a fifth water pump has been repaired in D section to bring huge relief to more than 400 families.
• A total of 78 persons suffering from various illnesses have been accompanied to different hospitals in El Fasher for treatment and medical consultation.
• A total of 22 inspection visits have been carried out in the four sections of the camp to take notes on the concerns of people.
• 8 meetings were held with various groups from neighbourhood committees, women’s groups, and youth volunteers to follow up on the priorities that had been discussed in the previous meetings.