For the second time in her life, Halima Adam Musa (68 years old) is forced to flee from Sudan with her family to Chad because of the armed conflict that broke out there recently.
She is one of 60,000 Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, who have poured across the border since the outbreak of conflict in her country on April 15, seeking safety in Chad, one of the world’s most hungry and neglected countries.
Halima has crossed this journey before. In 2003, she fled her village of Tendelti in West Darfur state after it was attacked by the then government-backed Janjaweed militia.
flee once more
Halima is a mother of seven and spent six years in a refugee camp in Chad with them before she was given a small piece of land to farm and lived on for ten years.
Her children grew up in Chad, some of whom married Chadians, but she longed for her homeland to return to Darfur with some of her children and grandchildren in 2020, rebuild her old home and reconnect with family and friends.
The current fighting between the army and the RSF, which was born out of the Janjaweed militias, has rekindled already unresolved tensions in Darfur, and fighting between local groups has forced Halima to flee again.
Halima now lives in a rapidly expanding makeshift refugee camp in the desert around the Chadian border town of Kfroun, and bemoans the loss of her home and her livelihood from farming.
Halima sat on a rug in front of a hut made of straw, canvas and plastic. “If you have land, even if you don’t have money, you can sell your products to survive, but when you have nothing, you will suffer,” she said.
Halima lives in that narrow space with scarce resources with her children and grandchildren, who fled from Tandelti with her.
The displaced get water from wells dug in the barren land and the women carry it in plastic bottles. While getting food requires standing in long lines under the scorching sun.
Danger of stopping aid
Chad has a common border with Sudan that extends for a distance of 1,400 km. Before seeing the latest influx of displaced people from Darfur, it was already struggling to deal with some 600,000 refugees, most of them Sudanese, who had fled previous waves of violence in their country.
In all, 2.3 million people in Chad are in urgent need of food assistance. The United Nations World Food Program issued an urgent appeal for $162.4 million to help provide food for them.
Chad has one of the worst hunger problems in the world. More than a third of children under the age of five are stunted. The annual UN program has raised only 4.6 percent of the $674 million in funding required to support the country.
The World Food Program warns that food aid will stop for refugees and residents of Chad if more funding is not obtained.
Another refugee, Harana Arabi Suleiman, 65, said, “We have no choice but to rely on ourselves if humanitarian aid stops.”
Like Halima, Harana was displaced from Darfur for the second time. She spent two years in Chad between 2003 and 2005, at the height of the conflict in Darfur, before returning home.
She explained that if the situation in Sudan stabilizes, she and her relatives will return to their homes, where they own a number of homes and lands.
But she said that if the violence continues, they will have to build homes and start over in Chad. And she continued, “We can stay here for years as long as the Chadian authorities allow us to do so.”