For the women, men and children who are surviving in the many cramped emergency camps located across Darfur and in neighbouring Chad, there is little chance of a return home. `Life is very different; it’s not like the life we were used to before, says Khadeja Mohamed Ibrahim, who lives with her family in one of the camps. `We are sitting with nothing to do, there are no job opportunities, no income. There is not enough food. I hope peace will come soon so we can go back to the villages. I hope we can return to our lives soon.
Suffering has also intensified because of the escalation of violence in the region. Chad was already hosting more than a quarter of a million refugees from Darfur. Now 140,000 of its own people have been displaced by conflict.
Oxfam’s work in these two countries continues to be the biggest our biggest emergency program in the world. In 2007, we provided 500,000 people with clean water and sanitation facilities we built latrines and erected water tanks and tap stands. Making sure there is enough water to meet everyone’s basic washing and cooking needs is an ongoing challenge but, to tackle the problem, our engineers are drilling new boreholes. This has greatly reduced the demand for water at pumping stations where people were queuing for long periods and means we are able to build more tap stands in and around the camps.
All of this work is vital in helping to prevent widespread disease but education also plays a key role.
Oxfam Public Health Promoters are running projects within the emergency camps and local communities to make sure that adults and children are made aware of the health and hygiene risks they face. In Kalma camp, one of the largest in Darfur, health promoters are using games and songs to teach children about the importance of washing their hands after using the latrine. The vast majority of people living in Kalma and other camps are women and children. These public health projects are not only fun for children but also equip them with information that could keep them healthy and save their lives.
`Children everywhere need to be taught to wash their hands and keep clean but especially here as the consequences can easily be fatal, says Oxfam’s Khaled Suleiman. `We are trying to ensure that the children are exposed to our messages at every possible opportunity. The songs are just a part of our activities. It’s clear that children’s health has improved since the programs began.