Project Update, April 26, 2023: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur

May 1, 2023

Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen and Eric Reeves, Co-Chairs

Nancy Reeves, Editor and Funding Advisor; Julie Darcq, Online Campaign Coordinator

Overview (Eric)

In place of the usual Annex providing a detailed report from the coordinating counselor for our project in Zamzam internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, I offer an overview of the vast, chaotic, and immensely threatening violence that has engulfed almost all of Sudan. The conflict between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemeti”) began in Khartoum on April 15, and it is here that the violence remains most intense. But many other areas, including Darfur, have also seen tremendous violence.

In the first few days of the fighting, I attempted to provide an overview of the fighting, including a geographical survey; but this quickly became an impossibly large task. I have attempted to bring together the information I now receive, primarily from my colleague Gaffar (originally from Darfur, superbly well-connected, and whose family is in Zamzam camp); Sudanese social media (presently badly hampered by extremely poor and deteriorating Internet access); and sources developed over my 24 years of working on Sudan. Most journalists have by now fled Khartoum, but news organizations still maintain some presence in the city, and my ANNEX for this month takes advantage of all that has been reported. Especially valuable are dispatches from the New York Times, The Guardian, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, and Radio Dabanga (which retains a large reporting presence in Darfur). But so complex is the military, political, and diplomatic landscape that it seems best to offer some highlights and then point to what I think is the best reporting and most insightful analysis. Some images of Khartoum at the present moment are included there and immediately below:

                             Khartoum is being destroyed by the fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces

                   People are fleeing the city by the tens of thousands, as basis services and supplies are no longer available—including electricity, which is needed to pump water in many locations

A Summary of Team Zamzam’s efforts for April 2023

Team Zamzam’s extraordinary efforts to assist the great many girls and women traumatized by two decades of genocidal rape are ongoing—even as rape continues unabated.

From the coordinating counselor (translation by Gaffar received April 25, 2023):

Between the first and second week of April, we collected information from inside Zamzam camp for the displaced in sectors A, B, C and D, and took note of a number of places during the month of food and other basic necessities. The routine within the camp clearly shows a worsening of living conditions and an increase in difficulties facing the people of Zamzam. As grim as the present situation seems, it could become much worse if fighting continues between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the regular army (the Sudan Armed Forces/SAF).

In our region of North Darfur, a great many inhabitants of El Fasher city, Zamzam camp itself, Abu Shouk camp [north of El Fasher] were forced to take shelter. The same has been true in other state capitals such as Nyala, where people sought refuge in their homes as the flying bullets, rockets, and artillery shrapnel flew through houses and roofs. As a result of these clashes, many innocent citizens were killed while hundreds more were injured. People in IDP camps have not been spared from the violence. Deadly cross-fire events have been common in market areas. Many houses and shops in El Fasher and Nyala have been looted and burned by the Rapid Support Forces.

These events have brought life as a whole to a standstill, and to some extent obstructed our daily work routine work. But we as Team Zamzam we are determined to continue our work regardless of these extremely difficult circumstances. We have noticed, for example, that in the first two days of these horrific events, many victims who are still receiving counseling therapy contacted us on numerous occasions, as they are terrified by the intensive artillery shelling that can be heard in the distance. But our team of dedicated counselors has managed to comfort and calm them.

What is clear, however, is that these events have had a profound psychological impact on many victims of sexual violence already are suffering from severe depression. One victim called us more than five times in the space of two hours, saying: "Where will I run now? Everyone is in a panic and people are saying that the Janjaweed are coming from El Fasher to kill us!" [Typically, Darfuri displaced persons see no meaningful distinction between the “Janjaweed” and the Rapid Support Forces, which were created out of the Janjaweed and their Arab militia allies—ER]

Monthly Activities

For the month of April (March 21 to April 21) we distributed basic necessities in the form of a Ramadan food package, intended to relieve the distress of the poorest and most vulnerable families.

Altogether, 322 families benefited from this distribution:

• 103 families who are assisting orphans

• 86 families of widows and debilitated women

• 61 families of the elderly

• 42 families with persons who are physically and/or visually handicapped

• 30 families with paralyzed children

Type of foodstuffs that have been distributed :

16 large bags of sugar, each containing 50 kg.

8 cartons of tea containing, each 75 bags

12 cartons of soap, each containibg 40 of soap

10 cartons of pasta, each containing 10 half-kilo bags

108 bottles of cooking oil, each bottle contained 1 liter

 Other work:

• We have overseen the rehabilitation of a fourth water pump in the camp (this one in D section) and named “Gordy’s Memorial Well.” The opening ceremony was initially scheduled for April 16, but plans were interrupted by the outbreak of violence.

• Between April 1 and April 14, three fistula surgeries were performed. The three patients were:

           Hatouma Abdullah Muhammad, 22 years old

           Hawa Jamous Al-Tom, 23 years old

           Mahasin Ibrahim Hamed, 27 years old

All were accompanied to the hospital, and their treatment went well. They have been given follow-up appointments. Successful fistula surgeries funded by this project have now rescued more than 65 girls and women from lives of agonizing pain, deep depression, and humiliating social ostracization.        

What is a fistula? See here.

What has been the experience of women who have had reparative fistula surgery ? See here.

• A total of 74 people, mostly children and women suffering from a variety of illnesses, were accompanied to hospitals for medical treatment.

• A total of 26 routine inspection visits were carried out in the four sections of the camp to check on people's living conditions and to evaluate current security concerns.


Our primary mission remains unchanged: providing psychosocial counseling to girls and women traumatized by extreme sexual violence. This entailed:

48 individual counseling sessions

15 group counseling sessions

                                       How to Help

Assistance is urgently needed and will be greatly appreciated by Team Zamzam, and by the girls and women whose suffering they seek to alleviate. The distribution of food and medicine 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, as well as the value of their deep understanding of where need is greatest within this vast camp, swollen with recent displacements caused by insecurity.

NB: It is now possible to make a tax-deductible contribution to our project, using a portal on the website of a 501/c/3 organization operating in Sudan. Operation Broken Silence, working primarily on health and education issues in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, has created a special site for a tax-deductible contributions to our project, and we hope this makes contributing to the health and well-being of girls and women in Zamzam easier for Donors.

We also hope that all will keep in mind 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)


Purchase one of his woodturnings:

                                       100% of the purchase price of every woodturning directly supports the project in Zamzam.


                               Previous updates are archived at:

                              A “You Tube” video of Eric describing the project can be found at:


Eric Reeves, Ph.D.

Sudan research, analysis, asylum representation, and philanthropy

Fellow, Rift Valley Institute

Trustee, Darfur Bar Association

Formerly a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center

for Health and Human Rights.

Founder, co-Chair Project Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur  

Twitter: @SudanReeves