Category Archives: Sudan

People of Darfur still hope for peace

Recently back from her visit to Darfur, Nana Anto-Awuakye shares more about her experience witnessing the work of our partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). In the last instalment of her series of blogs about life in the region, Nana writes about the solidarity of the women in the Hassa Hissa camp.

A wedding highlights the hope in Darfur

A bride young bride in Hassa Hissa Camp, Darfur

A young bride in a Darfur Camp: Annie Bungeroth/CAFOD

On a bad day it’s easy to say that the situation in Darfur is complicated and overwhelming.

But then you pause for a moment and look a little closer, and listen a little harder, and everywhere there are small signs of hope.

It’s the sun shining down on the solar panels pumping clean water to camp residents; it’s the farmer’s crops swaying in the breeze; and the sound of children laughing.

People talk about the challenges they face, camp life is not easy, but they also always talk about wanting peace, wanting to return to their homes.

In Hassa Hissa camp on my last day, I meet a large group of women dressed in their best brightly coloured toubs carrying large silver pots on their heads.

They sang and danced their way to their destination, the home of a bride.

The wedding party entered a small compound where women were cooking the wedding feast. Large pots bubbled away on open fires.

Just when I thought people here had nothing left to give, they proved me wrong.

The solidarity of the womenfolk was overwhelming. I was asked to help stir one of the large pots, it looks easy, but my wrist action barely got a swirl going. The women laughed at my feeble efforts.

I was struck by the inventiveness of a small boy who had made a toy car out of a discarded plastic bottle, and had attached a small flower to his toy car for decoration. He held it in both hands, and grinned with such pride at his wonderful creation.

“It was difficult to make, it took me a long time. But, I love cars. I love my toy.”

Here in Darfur people have not let camp life rob them of their hopes and dreams. Instead they have held on to them tightly with both hands.

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A water standpipe makes life safer for women in Khamsa Dagaig camp, Darfur

Nana Anto-Awuakye recently visited Darfur to see the work of CAFOD’s partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) who are on the front line of delivering life-saving services for the hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes because of the violence and conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. During her time there she visited Khamsa Dagaig refugee camp.

A temporary home becoming permanent

Women collecting water from the standpipe in Khamsa Dagaig camp, Darfur, Sudan

Women collecting water from the standpipe in Khamsa Dagaig camp, Darfur, Sudan

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Khamsa Dagaig camp – I had a TV image of UN tents that had seen better days, but here at Khamsa Dagaig the tarpaulin is now buried under ten years of mud brick and homes have morphed into permanent settlements for people who have fled their villages because of fighting.

On this vast sandy settlement it’s hard to know where the camp starts and ends, in fact its expansion over the last ten years has meant that it has pretty much merged with the nearby host community.

It takes a short climb to the top of a small hill to survey the sweeping sandy landscape to get a better impression – the NCA aid worker I’m with averages the size of the camp to fifty European sized football pitches put together, but even that seems an under-estimation, as I spot makeshift houses sprawling up a hill on the opposite side. Continue reading

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Visiting CAFOD partner programmes in Darfur

CAFOD’s partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) are on the front line of delivering life-saving services for the hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes because of the violence and conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. Today, more than ten years on, an estimated two million people are still living camps. NCA are one of the few aid organisations able to operate on the ground. CAFOD’s Nana Anto-Awuakye visited Darfur to listen to some of the stories of life in the camps. Here she writes about her first few days in Khartoum and Darfur.

Day 1: The heat of Khartoum

Khartoum, Sudan’s commercial capital is like any other global city; its rush hour starts early and doesn’t seem to end. Vehicles lurch a few inches forward in the traffic but no one is going anywhere fast.

Added to the commuter frustration is the sweltering 43 degree heat.

As the traffic bumps along, a donkey and cart trots out of nowhere and weaves its way in and out of the traffic, a reminder that despite the evolution of the motor car – sometimes the simplest way to get about is the oldest form of transport.

I am waiting in Khartoum with CAFOD’s partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) preparing to leave for Central Darfur. It is only a short walk to the NCA offices, but every step felt like I was walking inside a baker’s oven.

Kids in River Nile, Khartoum, Sudan

Kids in River Nile, Khartoum, Sudan

If you need to cool down from Khartoum’s blistering 43 degree heat, then you head for the Nile, there’s a spot where the Blue and White Nile conflate , and here you’ll find all sorts of people seeking relief from its cooling waters.

A group of women slip off their scandals and delicately dip their intricately decorated henna feet into the Nile waters; a group of primary school aged boys had created swimming floats by tying together empty plastic bottles, the strong swimmers splashed and roared with laughter, seemingly unafraid of the sometimes swirling Nile currents, while the not so confident swimmers stayed closer to the river bank buoyant their makeshift ‘bottle floats’.

Tuk-tuk taxi drivers, lovingly wash off the sand and dust from their vehicles revealing gleaming red and white or yellow and black paint work.

An old motor boat starts up its engine and with a few passengers on board it chugs its way across to other side of the river bank, a journey which looks like a two minute boat ride, seemed to take forever.

I too will be making a journey, leaving Khartoum for the other side of the country, heading to Zalingei in Darfur’s Central Region.

Day 2: Visiting NCA’s life-saving programmes

Photo from a plane - flying over Darfur, Sudan

Photo from a plane – flying over Darfur, Sudan

Buildings quickly disappear as we fly over vast expanse of arid and barren landscapes.

What green vegetation could be seen was sparse – from the air the trees looked like scattered sprigs of broccoli and snaking in between them, dried up sandy river beds.

Every so often the landscape would burst into greenery – a patch work quilt of neatly divided up square pieces of land with crops growing on them.

Once we land in Zalingei it is a short bumpy ride to the offices of CAFOD’s partner – Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), who are on the frontline running life-saving programmes – food, clean water and sanitation, health and nutrition clinics for the last 10 years, to people who have been affected by the ongoing conflict in the region.

There are no tarmac roads, just dirt tracks, here donkeys rule the road they are better able to navigate the pot-holes and the undulating crevasses of the dirt tracks.
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Darfur ten years on: mothers and children

Mariam Abdullah Adam had no milk to breastfeed her 45-day-old baby because “we have no food in the house,” she says. [Laura Sheahen/Caritas]

Nawal, 27, was a little confused when people showed up at her thatched hut one day, asking about her baby daughter. “They measured her arm to see how thick it was,” she remembers.

One thing wasn’t confusing: the family was hungry. “At home we don’t have any food,” she says simply. Though her husband earns some money as a daily labourer, there isn’t enough for the four children. “One of our little sons was in school, but he had to drop out. Our situation is bad.”

Help us respond to emergencies like the one in Darfur>>

Nawal’s situation has been bad for almost a decade, ever since the day her home village in Darfur was attacked. Shot in the leg and hiding under a tree, she thought she would die that day.

With thousands of others, Nawal escaped to one of Sudan’s camps for displaced people. They were safer there, but could no longer earn a living by farming. Some camp residents do tasks like brickmaking, making enough money to buy the day’s kilo or two of grain. But many mothers are prevented by illness, danger, or bad luck from earning enough to feed their families, and watch helplessly as their children grow thinner. Continue reading

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Helping leprosy patients in Darfur

by Laura Sheahen

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A programme staff member examines Halima’s hand. If leprosy symptoms are diagnosed early enough, patients do not lose their fingers.

Most people in England and Wales know of leprosy only from history books and the Bible. But in a few poor countries, neither the illness nor leper colonies are a thing of the past. For years, hundreds of leprosy patients lived in a place called Towanga near the border of Sudan and Chad.

“There wasn’t much food there, but it was enough,” says Mohammad, a healthy 20-year-old man living in the same camp as Halima. There was also leprosy medication available at a clinic near the border.

Everything changed when violence began in Darfur. Even leprosy patients weren’t spared: Towanga’s residents had to run for their lives.

“When we were attacked, I collected clothes and blankets,” says Dahwia, another grandmother in the camp. “We ran on foot, with no shoes. The skin of our feet was raw.”

Dahwia could run because her feet were not damaged by leprosy the way her hands were. The years had taken most of her fingers: “It started with one. Then when that finger was gone, the next finger started,” she remembers. “It happened each season—one more finger would go.”

Dahwia, Halima, and over 500 leprosy patients or their family members made it to Hassa Hissa, a camp for displaced people in central Darfur. Continue reading

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