Annual Report, December 2022: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
December 23, 2022
NancyReeves, Editor and Funding Advisor
Julie Darcq, Online Campaign Coordinator
The present report attempts to summarize the achievements of2022, representing the continuation of work that began in Zamzam internallyd isplaced persons (IDP) camp during the summer of 2020. Goals for 2023 are to build yet further on the extraordinary work to date. Given the amount of information to be conveyed, it has seemed most efficient to link to this Annual Report a number of annexes that are organized by topic.
Zamzam IDP camp has dramatically increased in size in recent years as displaced persons from all regions of Darfur continue to make their way to what looms as a source of tenuous security and possible humanitarian assistance. Zamzam and its more than 400,000 inhabitants will need continuing assistance to survive and to escape some of the consequences of genocidal violence, particularly sexual violence (for more on the physical character of Zamzam and the size of the camp, see this ANNEX).
With a monthly budget of $4,000, the project this pasty ear has focused on salaries for the counselors; provision of food, medicine, and sanitary supplies for the most desperate and needy inhabitants of Zamzam; and one or two fistula surgeries per month. Altogether, there were fifteen fistula surgeries in 2022; sadly, the waiting list for reparative surgery (which must be performed at a clinic in the regional capital of El Fasher) has grown to over 160 girls and women, with roughly a third of them in “critical condition,” according to assessments from the counselors.
We are hoping for a significant growth in the monthly budget for 2023, both for additional fistula surgeries and food supplies. This year’s expenditures, including repair of two key water wells (see below) came to $55,000.
The major achievement of the past year, as with the preceding year and a half, has been psychosocial counseling. In 886 individual counseling sessions (one-on-one) and 371 group counseling sessions,Team Zamzam reached over 4,000 women urgently in need of counseling assistance.
Group sessions typically have between six and twelve women/girls, with two three-hour sessions, divided by a break for lunch or tea.The linguistic and cultural fluency of the counselors, along with the tremendous experience they have acquired over the past two and a half years, makes them perfect interlocutors for victims who in many cases have never spoken to anyone—even within their own families—about the terrible trauma they have experienced. Most are deeply depressed and suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); intense feelings of shame are often exacerbated by social shunning, even by old friends.
As the counselors have all learned, tremendous patience and empathy are required. Breakthroughs are often exceedingly difficult to achieve. But the invaluable esprit de corps that has developed among this group of committed women sustains them all, even in the most challenging of cases.
The relatively high cost of a single fistula surgery ($400 in the El Fasher clinic) has limited this year’s cohort to 15 patients. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that such surgery demands a good deal of Team Zamzam’s resources: pre- and post-operative care is considerable, especially in ensuring that women remain catheterized following the procedure. Transportation to and from El Fasher is also required, as are medicines to deal with the urinary infections so common among fistula patients. Altogether over the past two and a half years, 60 girls and women have been rescued from lives of pain and social misery.
Our hope for 2023, contingent upon increasing financial support, is to double the number of girls and women surgically assisted monthly.
Rehabilitation of two critical water wells
It is a terribly dismaying reality that very few of Zamzam’s water wells provide potable water. Abandoned by the humanitarian organizations that drilled the wells in the first place, they have virtually all fallen into serious disrepair. As a consequence, women and children are all too often forced to wait for hours in the hot sun in order to secure a minimum of drinking water. I have received from the counselors no more urgent plea than that a way be found to rehabilitate a few of the most critical wells.
In 2022 our Project funded the complete rehabilitation of two of these wells (see photos here), we and hope to rehabilitate at least two more in 2023. Properly restoring a well to full usefulness is not inexpensive (approximately $3,500 per well if done by a trained hydrologist with a skilled team), but the ecstatic responses of residents in neighborhoods that benefited provide more than sufficient incentive to try to do more.
Ceremonial opening of rehabilitate well in Section D of Zamzam IDP camp
Provision of food
Team Zamzam takes an extremely active role in providing food to those most in need in Zamzam: the handicapped, the extremely elderly, women with children and orphans, and the most recently displaced persons arriving in Zamzam. In 2022 Team Zamzam assisted over 2,000 families in such need; average family size is approximately five, so some 10,000 people were assisted (typically with flour, pasta, cooking oil, and sugar).Without this assistance disease associated with acute malnutrition, especially among young children, would certainly have claimed many lives.
The failure of the past two agricultural seasons because of extreme insecurity has brought to the fore the threat of famine incoming months; this is a subject to which the coordinating counselors have recurred a number of times; their observations are condensed in this ANNEX.
Other medical assistance
Along with food, team Zamzam delivers medicine, soap, and feminine hygiene kits. 164 of the latter were distributed to girls and women at risk of severe vaginal infections. Many hundreds of bars of soap have been delivered, often accompanied by information about Covid-19, something about which virtually all Darfuris are ignorant (an outbreak a year ago was given the name “late season malaria”). Of course, social distancing is impossible in an IDP camp, even if the dangers of Covid are understood.
These and other critical camp activities (listed in a separateANNEX) were carried out in conjunction with Team Zamzam’s responses to girls and women traumatized by brutal sexual violence; such labors stand as a measure of the dedication and compassionate commitment of these remarkable women.
How to Help
Any assistance will be greatly appreciated by Team Zamzam, and by the girls and women whose suffering they seek to alleviate. Distribution presently comes as many within the camp daily move closer to starvation. Here I should also stress the tremendous efficiencies of purchases by a staff with local knowledge, and the value of their deep understanding of where need is greatest within this vast camp, swollen with recent displacements caused by insecurity.
We also hope that all will keep in mind that our project as a whole operates with truly extraordinary efficiency, in ways matched by no humanitarian organization operating in Darfur that I am aware of, a region I have been researching for two decades. There is absolutely no overhead for this project.
Those wishing to assist in funding the work of Team Zamzam may also send a check directly to Eric (Eric Reeves, 31 Franklin St., Northampton, MA 01060)