EAST DARFUR STATE, Sudan (UMCOR) – In December 2013, fighting broke out between the Maalya and Rizaigat tribes in East Darfur state, Sudan. When another tribe warned of imminent danger, Mona and Ahmed and their six children fled Um Rahouba village.
“We left everything behind—our home, our livelihood, the crops, and the land,” Mona recalled. “We thought about nothing but to flee. It was too difficult to take anything; the situation was terrifying. We ran even without water or food, carrying the little ones. We were very tired and frustrated. Luckily, we managed to contact our family in Adilla who sent a lorry [motor truck] for us.”
Finding temporary refuge, the family crowded into their relatives’ small house.
Mona and her family gather outside of their old shelter with their relatives in Adilla. PHOTO COURTESY OF UMCOR
“They shared their limited resources – shelter, food, and water,” Mona said. “It was difficult and embarrassing to share [with] them.” Ahmed secured work as a porter, loading and unloading goods.
As the children approached school age, the family’s burden grew. “We couldn’t afford school fees, uniforms, and books,” Mona said. Ahmed struggled to meet his family’s needs, and the three sons decided to forgo school, find jobs, and allow their three sisters to continue their education.
Then the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) stepped in. With a gift of shelter materials, UMCOR also provided security, dignity, and privacy to the displaced family.
“We are really happy to receive this shelter,” Mona said. “It gave us more space; it’s even more significant than what we had. I like that the boys have separate space, which is according to our traditions.”
Mona and her family sit outside of their new home. PHOTO COURTESY OF UMCOR
In May 2017, UMCOR, with funding support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, implemented a one-year, multi-sector project. Shelter is a main sector of the intervention in East Darfur State. Whitney Stovall, program manager for UMCOR’s Sudan and South Sudan offices, explained that various stakeholders (government, humanitarian aid organizations, and beneficiaries) and sectors (water, sanitation, and hygiene, shelter, food security/agriculture, livelihoods, economic-recovery management, and health) coordinate efforts to implement this program.
For more than a decade, UMCOR has met shelter needs of internally displaced families in East Darfur. UMCOR has developed unique strengths in the comprehensive beneficiary selection and shelter-design processes that draw on longstanding relationships with communities and other humanitarian agencies.
“UMCOR relieved our hardship,” a grateful Mona said. “It was really hard to believe that we’ll continue our normal life back again. Though it was a bitter experience, it gave us the strength and faith that God always graces us with his mercy.”
*Barbara Dunlap-Berg is a retired writer and editor of United Methodist Communications.