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Real Lives

Darfur orphan searches for family

© UNICEF Darfur/2004/Westerbeek
Hamudi Abdullah Mohammed's search for his family has taken almost a year

By Sacha Westerbeek

DARFUR, 24 November 2004 -- Hamudi Abdullah Mohammed sits quietly in the office of an aid agency working in Kalma Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. He’s different than other children. He’s not cheerful or pleased to meet newcomers.

Now 14-years old, Hamudi lived a quiet life with his parents and sister in Tura village in West Darfur. He was a student at the Tura primary school and enjoyed playing football with his friends and his sister, who is nine years old.

A year ago, Hamudi’s life changed completely when his village was attacked by the Janjaweed.

“I woke up early one morning when I heard shooting. I was sleeping in the room with my parents.” Hamudi is quiet for a while before he proceeds. “A bullet hit my mother while she was still asleep. My father woke up and held her in his arms. I was watching them and I heard my mother crying that she was dying. I saw my father get shot in his head.”

In desperate fear, Hamudi took some of his belongings and ran. He went to the home of uncle with the news that his parents were dead.

“But when I got to the house, I found it empty. Both my uncle and little sister were gone. All I saw was Janjaweed in vehicles and on horseback and people screaming and running around in desperation.”

He walked for many days until a truck driver stopped and gave him a ride to a big IDP camp near Al Fasher in North Darfur. His uncle and sister were not there. He stayed for four months before trying his luck in South Darfur, even though he knew the road between Al Fasher and Nyala was patrolled by bandits.

“The driver left me in Thabit where I had to beg for my food. I felt very lonely and I really missed my bed, mattress and blanket which I had left behind in my village.”

After four months in Thabit, Hamudi got a ride to Nyala. He met an old man who suggested he go to Kalma IDP camp, about 14 km from Nyala. A social worker with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) found a family for him to stay with.

Various aid agencies – including UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Norwegian Refugee Council – are working together to trace displaced children, help them find foster families and eventually reunite them with their families.

In Darfur, family separation is a problem stemming from the large displacements taking place since December 2003. Children separated from their families are at greater risk from violence, exploitation and abuse.

Most separated children manage to live with relatives or community members. Hamudi is a rare case of an Unaccompanied Child. To date there almost 50 Unaccompanied Children registered in South Darfur alone.

“I am now living with Adam and his family,” Hamudi said. Adam has two wives and four children in Kalma IDP camp, which has a population of approximately 100,000. Adam is employed as a social worker with NRC and is is also an IDP. He knows exactly what Hamudi is going through.

Hamudi’s biggest wish is his uncle will be found. This boy has travelled around the three Darfur states for almost a year and he is tired. “I don’t want to go back to Tura as I’m sure my uncle will not be there,” he says with a frightened expression on his face.

“Sometimes I can not sleep at night because I’m thinking about my parents,” he says as tears fall from his eyes. “I really miss them a lot”.



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