Orphans of Darfur – the price of conflict

The Darfur genocide claimed the lives of more than 300,000 civilians, forced 1.6 million internally displaced people to flee their homes and a further 600,000 refugees to spill across borders of neighbouring countries, with Chad shouldering the burden.

In 2003, Janjaweed rebels – tribal militia who traded spears for kalashnikovs – answered the president’s call-to-arms to support the Sudanese army to cleanse, ethnically, the uprising of Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribal minorities, which were aligned with the Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice Equality Movement.

Rahamat, 18, left her village in 2004 after militia groups entered their camp and massacred the villagers

Rapid Support Forces widely known for their origins in the Janjaweed militia group

Fatima, 16, at her home in the Sakaly IDP Camp, southern Darfur

Following aerial bombardment by the Sudanese army, Janjaweed rebels spilled through the villages. They killed; they raped; they looted; they burned; and they abducted boys as child soldiers.

Delivering aid to Sudan has not been without challenge. Efforts to delay, limit and deny access by humanitarian aid agencies to civilians in need of assistance are well documented.

Rahman, 16, lost his father in an attack on their village at 4am

Umsalama, 16, reached the Mosai as a baby with her brother

Today the security situation in the Darfur region of Sudan remains unstable. More than eight million people are in need of assistance, and the race to escalate urgent humanitarian intervention and protection remains.

Qatar Charity’s commitment to child welfare dates back to the 1980s. It has been working with Sudanese governments past and present to protect the orphaned populace in Darfur through its Rofaqaa sponsorship programme since the outbreak of conflict. The ministry of social welfare in Sudan estimated that there are 45,000 orphans in south Darfur alone.

In 2002 Nasser, 48, joined the Sudan Liberation Army, however defected to the ‘freewill movement’ after disagreeing with the brutality of the group

Alnile informal settlement, on the outskirts of Nyala

Soheiba, 14, was just 40 days old when her father was killed in 2006

Mohamed al Ghamdi of the charity explained: “Since its inception in 1984, Qatar Charity’s core commitment to child protection is deeply rooted. We honour this commitment through various projects worldwide, notably our child sponsorship programme, which ensures the provision of shelter, food, clean water, access to education and protection to more than 3,500 orphaned children in Darfur and 12,244 across Sudan.

Ikram’s father was shot and killed defending their family home from Janjaweed rebels

Ibrahim, 20, lives in Drage IDP settlement

Nibras Abdullah, 16

A key prerequisite for long-term peace and stability in Darfur is disarmament. The Darfur Peace Agreement of 2006 and the subsequent accord of 2011 required the disarmament and demobilisation of Janjaweed militia along with various rebel groups. Although perceived to be positive steps, there must be significant provision for alternative livelihood opportunities for ex-combatants. If this should fail, the risk remains of re-recruitment to other factions perpetuating a continuous cycle of insecurity.

Mohamed, 39, is enrolled on a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme

Islam, 17

Khidar, 18, was just two when his father was killed

Indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, President Omar al-Bashir’s tenure will be remembered for its brutality by thousands of traumatised and destitute families.

The pro-democracy revolution of 2019 forced a change in Khartoum. If Sudan’s transitional government can resist being drawn into conflicts in foreign lands and instead provide a realistic prospect of return for the displaced, then perhaps establishing a new road map for peace in the region might be possible.

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