Fleeing from the village to escape the violence, then crossing the desert border and building a hut made of straw and worn-out fabrics, and waiting for food aid. This suffering was endured by Halima Adam Musa, who had to flee from Sudan to Chad with her family for the second time in her life.
Halima, 68, is one of 60,000 Sudanese refugees, most of them women and children, who have poured across the border since conflict broke out in her country on April 15, seeking safety in Chad, one of the world’s most hungry and neglected countries.
Second trip to Chad
Halima has been on this journey before. In 2003, she fled her village, Tendelti, in West Darfur state, after it was attacked by the government-backed Janjaweed militia. These militias were composed of Arabs and targeted African farmers and herders.
Halima is a mother of 7 children, and she spent 6 years in a refugee camp in Chad with them, before she was given a small piece of land to cultivate and lived from its wealth for 10 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.
Fighting renews flight and pain
The ongoing fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces has renewed already unresolved tensions in Darfur, and fighting between local groups has forced Halima to flee again.
Halima now lives in a makeshift refugee camp sprawling 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. She said: If you have land, even if you have no money you can sell your products to survive, but when you have nothing, you will suffer.
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.
Chad has a common border with Sudan extending for a distance of 1400 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.
2.3 million people in Chad need food
Some 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 total funding required, amounting to $674 million to support the country.
The World Food Program warns that food aid will stop for refugees and residents of Chad, in the absence of more funding.
Escape from the Darfur conflict
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 added that if the situation in Sudan stabilizes, she and her relatives will return to their homes, as 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 added: We can stay here for years as long as the Chadian authorities allow us to do so.