Renowned war photographer Don McCullin travelled to Chad with Oxfam. His images show the desperate conditions that people affected by the crisis are being forced to live in.
The drive to Abu Shouk camp takes under 15 minutes from Oxfam’s office in El Fasher. Before leaving town glimpses of the camp, home to over 56,000 people, can be seen through gaps between buildings.
What hits you first as you enter the camp is a feeling of permanency. It feels like a town. People have built walls around their shelters, and many plastic shelters have been remade with bricks. Erected in rows, at the end of each row is a street name…N15…N9…W2. This feeling that it’s going to be a long stay is confirmed again and again …‘We have no ray of hope of returning home.’ Abu Shouk camp opened 3 years ago this month…it’s an unhappy anniversary.
Almost straddling the border of Darfur and Chad, and less than 30 kilometres from the Central African Republic, the town of Um Dukhun perfectly illustrates the increasingly regional nature of the Darfur crisis, spilling over into neighbouring countries.
Before the conflict it was a small town famous for its market that attracted traders from all over the region. Today, as well as people seeking refuge from violence and attacks on villages elsewhere in Darfur, thousands of refugees from Chad have sought shelter here. In recent months refugees have also arrived from the CAR.
“Life has changed much around here,” says Fatima with a proud twinkle in her eyes as she walks around the Djabal refugee camp in Eastern Chad. The site is located just a few dozen kilometers from the border with the Sudanese region of Darfur, which she and her family fled three years ago. Here Fatima and the rest of the refugees have begun to take control of their lives. As a result Djabal is clean and orderly and Fatima has developed the confidence of an active woman who works for her community and earns a little money for her children. Outside the camp, however, violence continues to be an ever-present threat.
“You don’t have to explain to these children what war is – they've lived it,” says Abakar Adam, a professor at a Koranic school in one of the blocks that makes up the Djabal Refugee Camp in Eastern Chad. “They have seen their villages attacked and they have experienced fear. There’s no need for me to tell them why they’re here.” Around 15,000 people –out of a total of over 200,000 fleeing the conflict in Darfur– have been trying to rebuild their lives here for the past three years, despite the fact that their hearts are still in the land they were forced to abandon.
Using the simplest of materials – mud, clay, water, and donkey dung – more than 2,500 women in the violence-torn region of Kebkabiya, North Darfur, Sudan, have learned how to build themselves a little bit of security. They are making stoves.
I’m not one for taking pills, but malaria, I know, is not something you want to fool around with. So, on this trip to Darfur, Sudan, I’ve been religious about popping a little pink tablet every morning to ward off the flu-like disease that leaves patients shaking with chills and burning with high fever—and consequently, I’ve become somewhat casual about the mosquitoes buzzing about my ankles and ears. I’m protected, right?
Topping a hill at Al Salaam camp in North Darfur, two massive Oxfam tanks—each holding 45,000 liters of water—stand silhouetted against the sky. They promise relief for the hundreds of parched and weary people who have trekked for as many as five days to reach this camp.
The path that runs through Gara Farjawya has the feel of a thoroughfare—if there can be such a thing in a small rural village in Darfur, Sudan. It’s wide. The community’s most important establishments—a new brick mosque still under construction, a grain-grinding mill, and a bunker-like store that sells sugar and other necessities—claim places along its edge. Family compounds stretch one after the other on both sides.
In the shade of a lean-to, on a table covered with a sheet of orange plastic, Oxfam’s Ahmed Mohamed sets down a bowl of fruit. Much of it has come from a private Garden of Eden not far from the center of Kebkabiya, a small town in North Darfur, Sudan, in which about 60,000 displaced people have settled in the last three years. They have fled the violence that has wracked the region since early 2003 and are now waiting for peace promised – but not yet delivered – in a deal signed in May.
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