From 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.
Water 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.
Yet 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.
How 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,