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6 September 2004: 55,000 people in one Darfur camp

© UNICEF/2004/Claycombe
A rainy day at the Kalma camp

By Paula Claycombe

KALMA CAMP, Darfur region, 6 September 2004 – I had not visited this camp in Kalma since the scorching heat of the summer sun was replaced by cooler temperatures and devastating rainstorms.

In April there were 6,000 people here, but by the end of August the population of the camp was 55,000. This constant increase has required an ever-expanding effort to provide a minimum of basic services.

I can say that Kalma Camp is definitely not a place where anyone should have to live.

Today there are several United Nations agencies and a dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) present in Kalma to help the swelling population.

Thousands of children, women and men survive precariously, living in small thatched shelters. The lucky ones have plastic sheeting, provided by UNICEF, OXFAM or other agencies, for protection from the rains. Those who are less fortunate have to use bits of cardboard and other scraps of material, in a largely unsuccessful effort to keep out the rain.

Since early 2004, UNICEF has been in Kalma providing support and working with local authorities and NGOs in health, nutrition, water, sanitation, education and protection. The number of NGO flags waving throughout the camp is encouraging, because it means more services are being provided.

As I pass through the camp, I am followed by a small group of children; normally, foreigners attract a larger crowd. These children are the brave ones, shivering in the cool drizzle while smiling - happy for some diversion from the cold and damp. We play a few hand-clapping games in an effort to warm their little bodies; adults huddled in their shelters join in.

As we conclude the hand-clap game, I am invited into one of the shelters by a woman eager to show me her three-week-old grandson named Osama. Both she and her daughter Amna saw their husbands killed in July, as they fled from their village.

Amna whispers lovingly to her son, Osama. When I ask what she is saying, she replies, “This little boy will have a better life. I will do everything I can to bring peace to Darfur for him.”



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