Take a Closer Look

djabal tukuls.JPGFrom a distance Camp Djabal looks more like a large village on the outskirts of Goz Beida. Traditional huts or tukuls are more common than the expected UNHCR canvas tent or plastic sheeting. Tall grass weaves through sticks to make tight fences. The grass reeds at the bottom are darker than the newer ones used to extend the fence beyond eye level. Trees dot the skyline and provide much needed shade.

But all you have to do is get out of the car to see that this is not a village, but a refugee camp.

IMG_0076.JPGWater stations are open only twice a day and each person receives about 15 liters for all their needs. It is late afternoon and the water has just been turned on. Water stations are crowded with women in brightly colored scarves and at the entrance you pass empty containers lined up for a turn at the faucet.

What saddens me the most is that not one child in the dozens I met today looked healthy.  Red or orange hair due to malnutrition is the norm. Many have skinny arms and legs joined by a stomach that pushes out. Runny noses, and crusted skin that looks infected. Their clothing is old, torn, and permanently dirty. Many times the backs of dresses are open because the zipper has broken. Young children go without pants, and many, so many, have no shoes. The ground is littered with bones, dung, trash, and who knows what bacteria. What was a beautiful scene of colorful cloth and children from afar, is a group of tired and worn refugees.

cu missing front teeth.JPGYet they smile, hold your hand, and are proud to show you what little they have. They are quite simply barely surviving on the bare minimum. If these are the lucky ones, imagine what the people inside Darfur are facing.

It concerns me deeply that it is okay for the world to turn the other cheek on the beautiful people of Darfur. The mass malnutrition alone sickens me not to mention what the people who have not left Darfur are experiencing. In a week, food distribution will begin here in Camp Djabal. In Darfur, food for more than 1 million will run out after May unless aid can be restored soon.

djamal fam 2.JPGHow long can someone survive on the bare minimum? How long will we allow Darfuris to continue like this? They have already been targeted for hatred because of who they are, many raped, homes burned, family killed, walked across the desert, and now receive just enough to live. Their culture has been striped and generations are not learning their traditional, sustainable way of living.

I don’t want us to be part of history that looks back and says, “Well, we tried to end genocide,” and set a commemoration date for Darfur. I want us to look back and say, “We ended genocide.”

Lucky to have what I have,
ktj

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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4 Responses to “Take a Closer Look”
  1. Katie-Jay,

    Thank you so very much for expressing what you are seeing, experiencing and feeling. My heart drops and becomes heavy when I read what you are seeing, but as you say, it is even worse over the border. When you write about the hair color being an indication of malnutrition, permanently dirty clothing and the sad routine of just getting some water…I get it so much more clearly.

    …We are all from the same fabric of life and for our humanity not to come to the side of these Darfuri brothers and sisters means we are disconnected from our own souls. Genocide has never happened without the silence of millions or billions of people. Could we write to our Special Envoy – Major General J. Scott Gration and give him a link to your website? I’ll check into seeing if I can find some contact information.

    Our love is with you,
    Sandra

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Thank you so much for all your support Sandra! We would love to post an action that involves Gration. I was not able to locate his contact information before I left. Please do pass it on if you find anything!

      much love,
      ktj

  2. Lisa Goldner says:

    Hi, KTJ,

    We really appreciate how well your words reflect the images of life in this camp. I wish your concern for the health of these refugees could be amplified so it struck others; especially, as the danger of disease and starvation was magnified after the expulsion of the aid workers. It seems like the photos, testimonies, and statistics would mean more, and that urgent action would be taken to ward off the projections made by NGO staff, of what will ensue in the absence of aid. Instead, it feels like those who need to act are hiding, or moving in slow motion.

    What do the refugees in Djabal camp know about the Darfur IDP camps and the expelled aid workers? Are they aware the Chad camps may soon be facing massive numbers fleeing from Darfur’s doomed camps? How are the NGOs preparing for the flood across the border?

    Peace and hope,

    Lisa

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Lisa,
      As always you are with us and I thank you so much for your dedication to the people of Darfur.

      We have not asked specifically about whether they know about or not about the possible influx of refugees. But I will follow-up with that in the coming days we have with them!

      As for the NGOs they had a big meeting with UNHCR and all the other partner agencies today at 4pm, and we have not heard about the meeting yet.

      In talking with a few of the aid workers here, they do realize that they might receive possibly thousands of new arrivals if the aid situation in Darfur is not addressed. The logistics of trying to get more resources to these camps in Chad is a nightmare. The food distribution for this coming rainy season is currently coming from Libya and faces the same issues of security and banditry that we heard about in Darfur for the past several years (from WFP). It then gets sorted and has to make its way to each of the 12 camps. These resources have not yet reached the camps in preparation for the rainy season which begin in late July or August. How will they be able to order more food for thousands of more Darfuris? Also water, an already rare resource will become increasingly scarce. The daily water in Camp Djabal is already down to 15 liters a day per person for everything (including animals) and with any influx of refugees, the same amount of water will have to be shared by more people.

      They don’t expect the influx right away since those who were closest to the border (within 10-25 days walking) have already traveled to Chad. So those who are expected will be walking from much further distance, and with no nothing.

      With what the aid workers provide, the refugees right now are currently struggling to survive, and barely making it. The agencies here will do all they can to help get more to the people who make the long journey across the desert. Those who make it will be the strong ones. Many will die in the process.

      peace, ktj

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