Project Update, September 27, 2022: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur

September 27, 2022

Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen and Eric Reeves, Co-Chairs

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

 [The current update covers the period August 25, 2022 – September 25, 2022]

As you read through this month’s update on the remarkable story of Zamzam Camp—a story of resilience in desperate circumstances—I hope you will ask yourself what small role you might be able to play in turning lives around. It takes so few dollars to make a big difference.

A gift of $400 provides life-changing fistula surgery, and there are 152 women and girls now waiting their turn. Smaller gifts help support Zamzam’s heroes—the counselors of Team Zamzam who are providing hope and relief to the many thousands who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of the Janjaweed militia groups. Smaller gifts also provide daily essentials—food staples, medicine, and soap—for the most needy in the camp.

Please give what you can. Every dollar you give goes directly to the project in Zamzam. Thank you for caring — and thank you for your generosity.

Nancy Reeves, Funding Advisor & Editor


North Darfur, including Zamzam IDP camp, has endured the same sustained, torrential downpours that have caused flooding in much of Sudan. For those recently displaced, this has proved to be a nightmare, with many living in appalling conditions—at Zamzam and elsewhere. With the resources at hand, Team Zamzam has responded with urgency and efficacy. In addition to providing food and medicine to the very most vulnerable, they have assisted in assessing newly displaced arrivals and helped with a campaign to gather some 800 blankets and nearly 3,000 items of clothing.

These and other achievements are summarized by Team Zamzam’s coordinating counselor at the end of her lengthy and highly informative report (for more details on the activities by this remarkable group of women, see the Update ANNEX):

• Work carried out during September 2022

[1]  23 inspection visits carried out in different areas and neighbourhoods that were hit by the floods and torrential rain, inspecting the condition of people, and assessing the extent of the damage.

[2]  Attending and participating in several meetings with the newly set up emergency committees to take urgent measures to provide shelter, blankets, and food for flood victims.

[3]  Several meetings with the security and camp monitoring committees of different neighbourhoods to hear the latest developments and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

[4]  Accompanying 126 patients suffering from various diseases, most of whom were children with malaria, to El Fasher civilian hospitals. Among these were eight pregnant women and three fistula patients.

• Distribution of basic necessities

Due to the exceptional circumstances, the priority for this month has been given to the flood victims who are still suffering from shortages of the most basic necessities. The total number of those assisted is unknown at present, but according to the assessments of the local committees, at least about twenty percent of the camp's population was affected by the floods. And yet I must painfully report that up to the present moment, no official from either state entities or the local authority has come to find out what is happening to these suffering families. This is so even as there is still an urgent need for many necessities, especially blankets, clothes, medicines, and most urgently, food.

• Among the huge number of affected people, Team Zamzam was able to provide about 183 families with basic necessities including sugar, pasta and flour. In addition, Team Zamzam has campaigned with the emergency committee in collecting 800 hundred blankets and 2,756 pieces of second-hand clothing.

• Total beneficiaries of food distributions:

        183 families

• Hygiene kits

       Total beneficiaries: 16 girls and women

• Counseling

The counseling program for victims of sexual violence continues as usual, with a noticeable increase in the number of new arrivals during the past three months. At the same time there is at least the promise of significant improvement. We look forward to expanding the size of the program so that we can reach other camps, such as Abu Shouk camp, where there are a large number of young victims. But this all depends on what resources are available to us. What is encouraging us to think of expanding beyond Zamzam is the bravery of some of these young victims, who walk all the way from Abu Shouk [about 20 kilometers away] and other places to attend these sessions. Magboula, a 21-year-old woman who walked for one hour to attend the sessions in Zamzam said:

“The first time I was brought here by a relative of mine who is also a good friend, and since then I too have brought three friends. And every one of us loves these sessions where we discuss things openly at ease without worries. Here we talk things that we cannot shares with even our mums."

• Total of individual counseling sessions: 58

• Total of group counseling sessions: 23

• Total number of sessions: 91


• Testimonial from Zahara A. Saliem, 23 years old

She is a victim of sexual violence and fistula patient. She said:

"Two years ago, while we were coming from the farm which is in Shaqra area to the west of the camp [roughly 10 miles—ER]. We were a group of four girls and two women when suddenly we were attacked by a group on camels and who wore turbans. In response to the attack, we immediately tried to escape, each of us leaving her donkey and belongings behind and running in different directions.

I was chased by two of the men until I was out of breath and fell to the ground. With that, they started beating me; I cried out but there was no one around to rescue me from them. They then did to me whatever they wanted to do and left.

[There is an extraordinary reluctance by victims of sexual violence in Darfur to speak of rape in anything but the most euphemistic terms. This is finally a measure of how shameful the crime is to victims. Indeed, many victims never speak explicitly about what they have endured, even within their own families. It is the great ability of Team Zamzam counsellors to be able to overcome this painful silence in individual and group counseling sessions in many cases—ER]

I lay down, bleeding, until a passerby helped me to get home the next day. I didn't want to tell anybody about what happened to me, but last year I felt very ill and was experiencing terrible pain. The pain was simply too much to bear, so finally, at the end of last year, I went to see a doctor. But the doctor told me I was suffering from a fistula, although I couldn't afford the cost of treatment. For over a year I suffered in silence. But I was brought to the attention of Team Zamzam by some of my friends. The Sisters have helped me with counseling to recover from my stress, comforted me with good advice, and then taken me to hospital to receive surgery. I feel blessed. I thank them."


Even more important for the political future of Darfur was the three-week sit-in/demonstration led by residents of Zamzam and other civilians from the El Fasher area. It was a remarkable demonstration and made particularly clear the power of women in the organizing and sustaining of such a challenging political action, one that compelled the attention of regional authorities in an unprecedented way.

And from this success others will follow: whatever reneging and bad faith there is on the part of regional authorities concerning commitments made, the people of this highly populous area of Darfur have shown themselves that they do have power, that they can make their voices heard—and heeded. Most of the coordinating counselor’s report details all that was at stake in this remarkable exercise in political activism. If real change is to come to Darfur, it must begin with such collective political action, committed to non-violence, but with unflinching determination.

And the world must hear their voices…

                                     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.

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:

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

Fellow, Rift Valley Institute

Trustee, Darfur Bar Association

Twitter: SudanReeves

Responding to victims of sexual violence in Darfur