|© UNICEF Sudan/2005/Noorani|
|A child at Nyala camp in Darfur.|
By Maya Dollarhide
DARFUR, Sudan, 23 June, 2005 – The ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region is affecting some 1.5 million children. Many of these children have witnessed terrible atrocities, including the rape and murder of family members.
And children have themselves been the victims of violence; girls have been raped, and children have been wounded or killed. Many have been forced to flee burnt-out villages with their families.
Tens of thousands of children who have suffered or witnessed violence are now living in camps, where they are provided with shelter, food and even an education. But the psychosocial impact of their traumatic experiences remains. UNICEF is working with non-governmental organizations, the African Union, and United Nations partners to help Darfur’s children recover.
“These children bear tremendous psychological scars. That is going to be with them for the rest of their lives, probably. And that is the greatest tragedy of this emergency,” said UNICEF Representative in the Darfur region Keith McKenzie.
UNICEF and its partners are supporting over 173 ‘child-friendly centres’ in the camps, where children have access to sports equipment, educational materials and art supplies. A simple packet of crayons gives a child an opportunity to express herself.
|Some of the artwork reflects the violence witnessed by countless numbers of young people in Darfur.|
Drawings change as healing begins
The drawings produced by children who arrive in the camps are a powerful testimony to what they have seen and experienced. Stark images of the conflict dominate their art, with burning villages and figures on horseback shooting into crowds of people.
Art is a way for children to cope with and overcoming trauma. “Being able to ‘speak’ of their nightmares in drawings helps children to heal,” said Mr. McKenzie. “They find it easier to express their emotions with crayons on paper, as words are more difficult to come by.”
|Artwork by a child in Al-Riyad Camp, Darfur.|
With time, the recovery process begins, and the children’s drawings change. “They are beginning to include flowers, birds and scenes of normal life,” said Mr. McKenzie. “Their hopes and aspirations are displayed in colour on the page.”
|© UNICEF Sudan/2005/ El Tigani|
|Children singing for peace in Darfur at the Open Theatre in Wali located in South Darfur, Nyala City.|
Art and celebration during the ‘Day of the African Child’
UNICEF and its partners are also using the performing arts as a means of offering psychosocial support to Darfur’s children. Celebrating the ‘Day of the African Child’ earlier this month, children at the Kalma camp in south Darfur performed songs, dances, read out poetry and played traditional instruments.