[The current update covers only the period June 25 – July 17, 2022]
As our project enters its third year, I find it an auspicious moment to congratulate Team Zamzam for its many accomplishments and successes: several thousand women have received critical—sometimes life-saving—psychosocial counseling as they seek to recover from the terrible trauma of ethnically-targeted violence, including all too frequently extremely brutal gang rape. A number of the victims had not reached the age of ten when they were assaulted.
Many of the sexual assaults have resulted in physical trauma as well, primarily in the form of fistulas. We have now facilitated more than 50 surgical procedures to repair traumatic fistulas, often quite simply transforming the lives of the girls and women who typically have endured terrible pain and risks of infection prior to surgery.
Well over a thousand of the most destitute and needy families in Zamzam camp have been the beneficiaries of food distributions, which occur on a monthly basis. Medicines and hygiene supplies have also been distributed widely. And in May of this year, our project was able to fund the repair and full restoration of a critical water well in the D Section of Zamzam. Water shortages throughout the camp remain exceedingly acute and we are hoping to find funding for a comparable well project in B Section of the camp at an estimated cost of $3,200.
All these successes and accomplishments, as well as many others, have been made possible with a monthly budget of $4,000:
• $2,200 for salaries for 20 counselors and two men aiding in transportation and security
• $400 for one fistula surgery in an El Fasher clinic, with extensive pre-and post-operative care, critical for this procedure
• $1,400 for food, medicine, and hygiene supplies (including soap, masks, and information about Covid-19)
(Specific expenditures are detailed in the ANNEX, comprising a very full overview from Project Zamzam’s coordinating counselor, including detailed observations about food insecurity, political and military developments, and the continuing challenge presented by the grim reality of female genital mutilation (FGM).)
High Risk of Famine
With additional funds we could of course do more, particularly in the way of increasing the number of fistula surgeries. An additional water well would spare a great many women and children agonizing waits under a hot sun for a meager but critical supply of water.
But most importantly, we would be able to fund additional food purchases: famine is the word with which I began last month’s update, and in her long and detailed report on conditions in Zamzam (as well as the specific efforts of counselors), the coordinating counselor for Team Zamzam mentions “famine” several times, and with growing urgency. Food security in Darfur (and much of Sudan) has plummeted recently, even as food prices have skyrocketed.
Inflation/hyper-inflation has long been a severely debilitating feature of the Sudanese economy, a function of years of gross economic mismanagement: previously by the al-Bashir regime, currently by the al-Burhan/Hamdan Dagalo|“Hemeti” junta) in Khartoum. But the effects of the Russian shutdown of Ukraine’s grain exports have quickly rippled through the world economy, crushingly in some places. And no place faces a grimmer malnutrition crisis than Darfur.
But as the coordinating counselor makes clear in her overview, insecurity in Darfur—particularly North Darfur and West Darfur—again threatens the agricultural season, this after the failure of last year’s harvest because of violence by unchecked Arab militia forces, who in many cases have been armed by either the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) or Hemeti’s largely untrained, undisciplined, and ruthless militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF has been authoritatively linked to recent, serious violence against non-Arab civilians in Darfur—and from 2013 – 2019 was the primary instrument of Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions in Darfur.
If the non-Arab farmers cannot work their farms—or the farms of others for wages—there will be another disastrous harvest in October/November (the rainy season in Darfur typically runs from late June to the end of September). Food will become even more scarce and expensive—and serious starvation will begin (we have already seen too many cases of starvation in Darfur in recent months.
I discussed at length in my June update the malnutrition statistics that are currently available; they are woefully inadequate, even as the available data show terrifyingly high levels of Acute Malnutrition (usually framed in terms of Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition, or SAM). Children under five who experience SAM may have mortality rates as high as 40%, particularly if there is no supplementary feeding or medical facility available. And even on recovery, children who have experienced SAM are at much greater risk for a range of diseases. SAM is one of the five greatest causes of childhood mortality, especially when co-morbidities are present.
The UN food program currently provides a single minimum daily caloric meal for only about 10% of the population in need in Zamzam. This is primarily a function of gross underestimating of the camp population. Notably, large sections of the populations in West and North Darfur (as well as other parts of Sudan) have recently been reported to be in a state of “Crisis/Emergency Food Insecurity.”
The counselors of Team Zamzam will continue their critical efforts on behalf of many tens of thousands of girls and women who have been victims of almost two decades of genocidal sexual violence. And they will do whatever resources permit by way of providing food and medicine for the very most destitute and needy in Zamzam IDP camp. But a need for more resources could not be clearer.
How to Help
Any assistance will be greatly appreciated by Team Zamzam, and by the girls and women whose suffering they seek to alleviate, and who distribute all they can to those within the camp who daily move closer to starvation. I should 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 to roughly 400,000 people with recent displacements caused by insecurity (also discussed in the coordinating counselor’s report).
While not tax-deductible, a contribution should be made with the knowledge 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 send a check directly to Eric (Eric Reeves, 31 Franklin St., Northampton, MA 01060) or purchase one of his woodturnings: https://www.ericreeves-woodturner.com/gallery
100% of the purchase price of every woodturning directly supports the project in Zamzam.