Heavily armed men ride in during the middle of the night and take whatever they want. During the day, men are abducted and tortured, women beaten and raped…and these are the survivors. There are killings also.
It sounds like reports we are hearing from the interior of Darfur, with its ever deteriorating security situation, but these reports are from men and women refugees in camp Ourecassoni. We had heard from local officials, gendarmes, and military posts that there is a lot of tension on the border area, with confrontations happening very often. Today we heard from the refugees, and they tell of a situation that is beyond bearable. An English peaking teacher told us that, if the situation does not improve, they prefer to go die in Darfur, their land, than to die in a camp.
Women have not been able to go out to collect wood during the last two to three months because of the violence, according to a number of men we spoke with today, including the refugee leader of one of the zones in the camp and a teacher for the school in the same zone. Another man, whom we met at a blanket distribution site and is a refugee that works as a protection officer for one of the NGO’s, told us the same story, recounting a specific attack on refugees just two days ago.
The teacher pleaded for us to take their message to those that have the power to help. He said that they need security immediately, not in two months or later.
They believe that local thugs are the ones terrorizing the camps and surroundings, taking advantage of a complete lack of security. We were told that these thugs actually ride cars into camp, after the NGO’s have left for the day, and take whatever they want at gunpoint.
We go back to Ourecassoni tomorrow, and we get to meet some of the victims of attacks.
Hello Gerri K.:
Are children’s nutritional and medical needs being met? They are, to minimum standards. It also depends on the camp. We have seen that some are better handling the major issues facing children and refugees in general. On paper, the children are getting the proper amount of calories and water. There are clinics in the camps. In reality, it is my opinion that things are very far from being adequate. The referral hospital in this area, the one in charge of taking in the serious cases coming from this, the largest camp we have seen in Chad, only has one medical doctor. There is one doctor in the clinic we visited today inside of the camp. On the nutrition side, the refugees are getting food they do not like, so they have to trade some of that to get other goods. Barely any of them get any meat. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) told us that they are getting what they need to survive, but if they continue taking in the same food rations without change, deficiencies will start to show up, affecting their health. This is a life of survival, with some living squeezed out of it. As you can see, the children smile, play, and go on. They are amazing. We definitely distort the picture, I believe, showing up with our cameras and our weird looks. Most of the refugees are happy to see us and show great gratitude for us wanting to tell their stories.
Hola Connie y Tere:
Yes, there are many feminist angles to this story. The women from Darfur are feminist, in a way. They take it upon themselves to make things happen and keep their families afloat. There is great power in the women we have been seeing in these camps.
Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad you’re appreciating the videos. It is not easy, trying to tell stories in eight minutes. The main problem being, we are amateurs at this, and we have to go with gut-feeling a lot more than any expertise. We have a lot more material, which ends up on the cutting floor, and has great information. We’ll find a way to package it and make it available when we get back.
Hey Jennifer Fox:
All the way from Taiwan! And, you lived in Khartoum! Thanks for following our trip, and thanks to your family in Canada. We have to be “Caring People Without Borders.” The problem is huge, but the solution is in what we each CAN DO.