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Darfur: household items make a difference in Gereida camp

12-12-2007 Feature

Since the Darfur conflict began, two million people have fled their villages to camps and started a new life away from their homes. Um Alhassan arrived in Gereida camp three years ago and there are still times when she struggles to provide enough means for her family. ICRC delegate Mireille Osbourne-Pellaud reports.


In Gereida camp

  • The ICRC carried out a distribution of essential household items in Gereida camp to assist 22,000 households in need of basic items such as tarpaulins, jerry cans, blankets, clothes and dishes;
  • 120,000 people receive monthly food rations and have access to safe drinking water through the operation and maintenance of four water production points, including 17 km of distribution networks, 13 storage tanks, and 24 water distribution points;
  • sanitation in the camp is managed through the construction and maintenance of 6,000 latrines and the collection of garbage and solid waste, with the support of Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) volunteers;
  • a feeding centre to treat malnourished children in the camp is jointly operated by the British and Australian Red Cross Societies;
  • consultations for respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, bilharziosis, and other ailments are carried out at the health clinic.
      Um Alhassan, 29, is a young mother of five child ren. She lives with her family in a confined space. Living conditions in the camp are radically different from the ones at home. As for many other displaced families in Gereida camp, resources to meet daily basic needs are scarce. 

" Three years ago, during the first attack on our village Jeje, my husband, was killed while he was on lookout. He wasn't armed. We then spent our days in the bush and our nights at home. Four months later we were attacked and looted again and the village was completely burned. So that day we fled with nearly nothing, a saucepan and a few things. My children and I had to walk two days to reach Gereida, " said Um Alhassan.


 Waves of arrivals at Gereida camp  

When Um Alhassan, her family and the whole village arrived in Gereida three years ago, humanitarian organizations were already assisting displaced people coming from other villages. Jeje's population was among the different waves of arrivals waiting to receive help. Even today, newly displaced people continue to arrive in the camp. 

" When we arrived in the camp, we slept under a tree for the first month. Then the residents of Gereida town gave us a piece of land to build a shelter. During this time we survived on the little bit of food that was given to us and other newly displaced people, that was collected during ceremonies in commemoration of those that had been killed in the conflict, " explains Um Alhassan. 


Um Alhassan and her family then began receiving monthly food rations from the ICRC. " I remember very well when they came. It was the second wave from Jeje. There were thousa nds of them, mainly women, elderly people and children, " said Ismail Osman, ICRC field officer. " Most of the displaced people were farmers in the past but because of the conflict they had lost their land. Um Alhassan is one of them, " he added.

It was very difficult for Um Alhassan to cope with the very few items she received from her relatives. She got married again and she looks after her father-in-law as well so there are lots of things that she lacks to cope with her daily duties. The ICRC recently provided her with a set of essential household items. " Although we are eight members in my family and I am really in need of lots of things, as soon as I received the items I knew how much they will help me with my duties, they make a lot of difference. I'm very pleased to have home items today. "  


  ©ICRC/M. Osbourne-Pellaud    
  Um Alhassan using her new household items.    
     Dreams of returning home soon  

One of the main concerns of Um Alhassan is that every day she needs firewood to cook for her family. She says that inside the camp it is generally safe, but not in the surroundings where she has to go to access trees for this wood. 

Despite the fact that security in Gereida and in the camp is not a major concern, the general environment is harsh and isolated. During the wet season everyone is locked in by the surrounding floodwaters and alternatively in the summer months the temperatures rise up to 45, often 50 degrees. Nonetheless, people have been worn down by attacks and lootings on their villages and consequently are still seeking safety in the camp. 

" I would like to return to my village but security is not yet guaranteed and I have nothing left there. Still, I am still looking forward to going back to start a new life even if I have to start from zero, " says Um Alhassan.