What is life like in the camps?
in the camp is very difficult, especially compared to how people lived
before. A family of about six share one shelter that is 3 x 4 metres.
Some people had been sleeping on the ground for about a year before IR
What is the security situation like?
The number of security incidents within the camps has increased
recently, with people being attacked and donkeys being stolen. Men,
women and children are being terrorised daily by militia. Shots are
often fired into the air to frighten people as the militia ride by on
horses or camels.
Parents fear for their children and do
not let them leave the camp. Many people have had family members killed
when the militia attacked their villages.
particularly cannot sleep at night because they know the militia are
nearby. Those who have been attacked whilst collecting grass and fire
wood are too ashamed to speak about it.
Are people able to earn a living?
people in Kerinding II have no way of making a living and rely solely
on aid agencies and the UN. When IR distributed clothes we found that
some people were selling them to buy food and other essential items.
people collect grass and wood from outside the camp and sell it in the
market, but leaving the camp is dangerous. The women who venture out
will carry sacks of grass to the market, 5 km away in El Geneina. One
sack will earn them 100 Sudanese dinars (0.40 Euro) but if it doesn’t
sell they carry it back to the camp and try again the following day.
Islamic Relief has been working to get people together like the newly
formed Women’s Affairs Committee. These committees encourage people to
explore ways they can earn a living and support each other.
How are children coping?
It seems to me that children in the camp have lost one phase in their life – childhood.
I was talking with 20 children and I noticed how they don’t have any
desire for toys and playgrounds. They make trucks from old oil cans and
play with them in the sand. When I asked what they would like to have,
their answers were not childlike. A few said they would like to have a
bike, a football or a toy but mostly they asked for beds, mosquito
nets, blankets, teacups, carpets, clothes, shoes and school bags.
Are children able to go to school?
Relief runs the Masakhane school that has over 1,500 pupils, mainly
from Kerinding II camp. There are 29 teachers but they have low
salaries so parents often contribute to ensure the teachers have
The school itself does not have benches or
chairs and needs more books and teaching materials. Despite this
children enjoy school and many of them want to be teachers and
headmasters when they grow up.
Islamic Relief is also
working to raise awareness amongst parents about the importance of
education. Many children do not attend school because they are trying
to earn money and girls in particular drop out by the age of 14 or 16
to get married. IR is working to get these children back into school.
Do camp residents have access to health care?
Relief runs a health clinic that provides essential health care,
medicine, antenatal care and health awareness training.
Between 100 -140 patients visit the clinic every day and the 13 members of staff struggle to keep up with the demand.
the moment we are also cleaning up the camp to ensure better hygiene.
We also regularly distribute soap and other hygiene items to camp
How do people feel about returning home?
People cannot go back because of the insecurity. Of course they would
like to go back eventually but they don’t know when this will be
possible. They are patient people, prepared to wait for the security
situation to improve.
The reality is that rural Darfur
is very unsafe and many villages have been claimed by the militia who
are now using their land.
What problems have you faced working in Darfur?
The biggest problem in Darfur is that there is no freedom of movement
because bandits control the roads. Humanitarian convoys have been
unable to deliver aid in areas of great need. Some people are dying of
hunger and sickness because sufficient aid cannot reach them.
also have a problem with unregistered people living in Kerinding II.
There are currently over 8,500 registered people in the camp and
another 1,200 or so who are not – plus almost 600 who live just
These people come to Kerinding II for many
reasons, including the fact that nearby camps are very overcrowded, or
because they have family here. However as they are not registered they
don’t have the ration cards they need to get food and other aid items.
Other people end up sharing their food with them, especially if they
are women or elderly.
What have you found rewarding?
a European, I am referred to by the local people as ‘havaji’ (white
man), which is quite endearing. Many people here have never seen a
white man, not even on television because they have never had
Young children in particular are amazed as
they think that I have been coloured white and after they shake my hand
they look at their own to see if the white colour has rubbed off!
I have a good relationship with people here, which I really cherish.
have learned several Masali words, which is the language most people
speak, and I can now greet people when I see them. Learning the
language is a great way of building trust and it also helps me involve
people at every level of our work, from sharing information and
planning to making decisions.