Dafurian Mothers want a better future for their children
By Eman Eltigani
Nyala, South Darfur, May 2014-In has been a decade since the conflict started in Darfur and Dafurian mother’s tears are endless.
“Over the last 10 years, my tears have never stopped and death and the feeling of displacement have been my constant companions. My journey started in 2003 when I fled my village in Towar, Near Jabal Marra area, leaving behind the unburied bodies of my parents, to seek refuge in the safety of the camps.” These are the words of Fatam Ibrahim, a 45 year old mother of five children living as an exile in her own country in Otash Camp in South Darfur.
"when we came to Otash Camp I wanted to leave the sad memories behind and I hoped that this would be the end of my sorrow"
In the past decade, she has experienced the bitterness of losing her loved ones in attacks, the deadly fear of gun shots and the daily trauma that accompanies displacement. Wiping her tears, Fatam conveys the story of how the armed militia attacked her village of Towar. With sorrow as fresh as if it happened yesterday and how they had to flee for their lives.
She recalls staying in Kalma Camp long enough to deliver her daughter, but soon afterwards, fighting erupted among the IDPs, the rebels, and government forces. The conditions in Kalma began to resemble the clashes in Towar. During the fighting, her husband and his brother both were injured. Her house was burned. After current breaches of security in Kalma the family relocated to Otash Camp. Once they arrived in Otash, Fatam remembers finding many residents from their tribe feeling that security would return and her story would have a happy ending.
Fatam‘s eyes tell a different story. A story of tears that have etched her sadness and drawn lines on her face making her look 20 years older than her age. She pauses for a moment and then returns to her story saying, “when we came to Otash Camp I wanted to leave the sad memories behind and I hoped that this would be the end of my sorrow.’ Contrary to her hopes, her sorrows grew when her husband died leaving her alone to raise five children.
The tragic death her of husband was followed by the discovery that her son had become mentally ill. Fatam is convinced that his condition is the result of the trauma of witnessing numerous atrocities and deaths of many close relatives. Her son Seenin is now 19 years old and after leaving school he became mute. He does not talk unless you approach him and all that he remembers is the family’s burnt house in Kalma and how they had to leave Towar.
Seenin takes exception to the suggestion of going back to the school or out with his peers. Fatam used to take him to the MSF clinic for psychosocial support and treatment. She believes that he was improving, but Seenin’s therapy ended when MSF had to terminate their services and left the camp and now there is no medical support for him. So now she is left to her tears and her prayers. She says, “I have to be there for him and pray that Allah makes him better.”
Fatam does not see future with clarity for her or her children, but remains hopeful that the situation could improve one day. She works two shifts selling tea near the market and also works with the community-based income generation project producing Al Dom Syrup. Her oldest son, Salah is 22 years old, has left the camp and travelled to Khartoum. He calls from time to time and says he is trying to find steady work, but has yet to send money to Fatam. She has no dream or plan for tomorrow. She sighs and says, “Life goes on and I have to survive, but I’m tired of being displaced and I can only hope that my children will bring me some happiness when they are grown.”
Before we parted, Fatam left me with a summary of her sojourn in the camps. She said, “Over these past 10 years, my fears have never disappeared and the lack of security keeps me in this prison. It is extremely difficult to survive when there is no enough water or food in the camp. Everyone has left us including the NGOs. I know what war means and I do not want anyone including my enemy to experience what I feel.”