Life in Darfur is characterized by extreme violence. Fighting between non-Arab African rebel groups and the Arab 'Janjaweed' militias continues to claim the lives of civilians in Darfur and create a refugee crisis in neighboring Chad.
In late 2004, Christian Children's Fund conducted a large-scale Child Protection assessment in Chad refugee camps to identify the needs of women and children affected by the militia violence. CCF discovered protection concerns and real need for basic services and psychosocial well-being interventions.
Refugees are coping with profound losses. They've seen livelihoods destroyed, witnessed the deaths or abductions of loved ones, sustained injuries in bombings, and women and girls physically assaulted and raped. Those fortunate enough to reach the safety of camps suffer harsh living conditions, poor nutrition and the risk of serious disease.
CCF was recently awarded two UNICEF grants, to support the relief and recovery of Sudanese refugees. The first will be used to respond to the specific needs of children affected by the Darfur crisis. With this grant, CCF will create protective environments that offer psychosocial support to more than 29,000 children.
The second grant will be dedicated toward the creation of a support network for women and girls who have survived gender-based violence in Sudan.
Support for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence
As refugees settle into life in the camps, stories of abuse are surfacing, including the systematic rape and violence of women and girls by Janjaweed and government forces. Studies, such as Amnesty International's "Sudan, Darfur, Rape as a Weapon of War," document sexual assaults, public dehumanization, humiliation and rape in front of a victim's own family
Using UNICEF grant funds, CCF will create programs in Chad to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and address the psychosocial, medical and physical needs of women and children once subject to such violence.
Drawing on experience with survivors in Sierra Leone and Northern Uganda, CCF understand that women experience undue feelings of worthlessness. Girls are often cut off from their families, which consider them to be 'unclean' or 'damaged.' The women also face increased risk of contracting STDs, including HIV/AIDS, and are prone to suffer from reproductive tract trauma, depression and suicide.
CCF will also implement programming to respond to gender-based violence and reduce women's vulnerability to exploitation. This includes skills training for girls, ages11-18, and income generation activities for women without a source of income. CCF will offer spaces for the women and girls to heal and gain acceptance from their peers and families. Additionally, CCF will promote awareness of issues related to human rights and violence against women, and provide psychosocial counseling, protection training and legal services to address gender-based violence in a culturally-appropriate manner.
CCF will also train respected community members to offer education on HIV/AIDS prevention and birth control.
Meeting the Needs of Children
The violence and frustrations of camp life have a visible psychosocial impact on children. Some have become destructive. Some isolate themselves and do not talk. Others experience sleeplessness, anxiety and nightmares.
CCF's assessment revealed a severe lack of youth activities in camps and a need to engage young people in meaningful, normalizing activities.
CCF will use the second UNICEF grant to create Child-Centered Spaces, safe havens that provide informal education, support and protection for children. Recreational activities that emphasize communication, teamwork and non-violent conflict resolution build resilience are essential to a child's recovery.
CCF, in coordination with Medicins Sans Frontieres-Belgium (Doctors Without Borders), is currently overseeing Child-Centered Spaces in two refugee camps located in close proximity to feeding facilities.
Additional Child-Centered Spaces will further expand organized educational activities, provide school supplies and organize recreational programming.
The organization will also select and train youth from the community to serve as peer counselors, and create Child Well-Being Committees, consisting of refugee children and adults, to focus on child protection issues, support of vulnerable children and child-focused activities within the camps.