When the village of Korma was attacked and burnt on March 15, the inhabitants had to leave very quickly. They decided to head for Al Fashir – the capital of North Darfur. Riding on donkeys and camels, it took them between three and seven days, depending on the age of the children travelling with them.
Hawa Hassab Mahmoud and Alawia Ahmed Musa Abdel now live with their families in Abu Shouk camp near Al Fashir, along with tens of thousands of other displaced people. The two women invited us to sit with them for a few moments to share some water and shade. They began to tell us about their ordeal: “Most of our men were killed or taken away by the attackers. About three quarters of the girls were raped. Some of the girls were abducted.
We took with us our animals and the remaining cereals that were not stolen or burnt. We had hardly any water to drink so we had to give it sparingly to the children. Some of the animals died on the way.”
The first camp near Al Fashir was in a place called Mastral. Aid agencies were concerned about this location because they knew the area would get flooded during the rainy season. Hawa and Alawia were advised to move to Abu Shouk where they would find good shelters, water pumps and health care. ECHO funded operations in Abu Shouk include a clinic offering primary health services and therapeutic feeding for malnourished children.
“We were glad to leave Mastral because it was becoming very overcrowded. It is relatively safe here compared to Korma. But the armed men that hang around near the camp are a threat, especially to young girls who could be at risk. We do get food distributed every month but it is not enough and we learn to do without.”
As the mothers told their story, children clustered around to see the visitors. What is the food like here in the camp? “The food here is different”, they say. “In the village we ate bread, but here we always eat porridge”. Not all the children made it to Abu Shouk. The older boys aged 16, 18 and 20 were taken away to be fighters.
The women say their greatest need is cash for work. In the village they learnt English and sewing, and they would like to continue this. “If we could find work we could buy clothes and food for the children. We could, for example, work in a kindergarten and look after the children.”
For now, they have settled into a daily routine: “Every day we wake up in the morning and pray, before making tea for the children. Then the children go to school and we cook dinner. When they go back to school after lunch we fetch firewood. Sometimes we try to get some sugar, tea or tomato puree by bartering. Then we will sit around until nightfall.”
Home is not an option at the moment, they say. “We can’t return to the village. It is not safe and there is nothing to go back to.”
What would make Hawa and Alawia feel safe enough to go home? “If we were 100% sure about safety we would go back. We would find a way to start afresh because it is the land we know.”