Women with their Children
Right away on entering Mile, I noticed that women are the energy that powers the camp.
Women, with their children, gather water and dig up dirt to create mud bricks. They carry these bricks to their tents and then build walls that become rooms and spaces for their families to live more comfortably in.
Women, with their children, walk long distances to gather special clay with which, in a process that takes days, they create dishes and pots and jugs for their families to eat and drink from.
Women, with their children, walk up to twenty kilometers to collect wood, so that they can then cut it and use to build fires that will cook the meals that they, the women, prepared for their families.
The women of Darfur, with their children, have all of my respect.
Darfur in Mile
It was a forty minute ride out to camp Mile. Beatrice, in a UNHCR vehicle, lead the way, and us, the i-ACT advance team, followed behind. Our car is still having breathing problems. Not yet out of the town, it started coughing and stalled. Bechara, our driver, got it going again, and we caught up to Beatrice. It is a nice ride out to Mile, a view of vast African plains covered with thin grass. The many camels you see lazily strolling around are probably a good indication that this is pretty close to the line where the Sahara meets the Sub-Sahara.
We made it to Mile, and Ali Khalil, from Care International, the camp managers, gave us a tour of the camp. Mile is a large collection of tents and mud structures. More than 13,000 Darfuri refugees live in this camp, which opened on May 6, 2004. This group, made up mostly of people from the Zaghawan tribe, had first fled from Darfur to the Chad border in 2003. They were later moved to Mile by the UNHCR.
There are so many mixed feelings I went through while walking Mile. I felt great joy at being with these people I have been so intensely focused on for the last year. Seeing the beautiful, bright colors of their clothing gave me goose-bumps. I am here! The young children are all life. They come to us with their wide smiles and eyes full of curiosity.
I also felt sadness. The younger children were born in these camps. The older ones might want to forget the horrors associated with their villages. The women are strength. They do so much of the work that keeps their communities strong and alive.
An older gentleman, Idriss, wanted to pose proudly for the camera, telling the child next to him to straighten up and look at the lens. Idriss gave us thanks for all of the help his people are receiving. He said he wants to go back home, but there is no security. He only feels safe inside the camp.
I know that you will enjoy watching Day 6. Please follow the steps to help end genocide. All of this is not worth it, if you do not follow up with action. These beautiful people deserve to feel safe. They deserve to go home.
We’re waiting for Beatrice from UNHCR to give the OK to go to Mile camp.
At 2am last night, a group of armed men stole the Guereda Prefect’s car. They also took one other vehicle from the local hospital. UNHCR is not sure who these men are of if they belong to any group.
Chadian military chased the men out of Guereda, and one of the fleeing cars crashed, with a gun fight ensuing. There were no known casualties. The car robbers fled into the bush, and the Chadian military continues after them.
Instead of leaving for Mile at 7:30, we might leave closer to 9:00. There is an advisory against using the road to Abeche. Good thing that we are going in another direction.
I read some of your comments last night. Thanks for staying in touch.
Charles, thank you for the quick Arabic language lesson. Shukrau!
Michael M., thanks for the notes and thanks for helping with the site and this blog in particular.
Ray B., it’s great to hear from you. Please say hi to everyone at o.net.
Lidia, thanks for the good wishes.
Tom (there’s a few Tom’s, but it’s the Tom that commented about religion), I completely agree with you. The conflict in Darfur is not about religion. A group in power is using the different tensions and the competition for the scarce natural resources in the area to attain its goals. I apologize if what I said or wrote implies otherwise. Thanks for letting me know!