ON ASSIGNMENT: DARFUR REFUGEES
I visited Oure Cassoni in February 2007 for a few days traveling with the UNHCR. It’s a grim camp on the border to Darfur with about 26,000 refugees. It situated less than five kilometers from the border to Darfur and most people has fled the violence there.
The aid workers and refugees live under constant danger as skirmishes take place a few miles from the camp.
Oure Cassoni is the northernmost camp in Chad run by UNHCR. They totally run 12 camps with about 230,000 refugees.
In Oure Cassoni, the daily life conditions are difficult, with strong winds and severe sandstorms. The residents completely depend on outside help.
Many mud-brick houses and tents are partially buried in sand. Women find it difficult and dangerous to search for firewood, and they are sometimes sexually abused.
A man-made reservoir is almost empty of water due to the lack of rain. This reservoir feed the camp with water.
I also spent time with SOS Children’s villages staff, and we visited a 7-year-old boy that was held with a rope to a pole by his family. This to keep him from wandering away, they said.
According to SOS, the boy saw his village bombed when he was 3- years old. He hid alone in the bush for 2 days before his family found him and they all fled across the border.
SOS Children’s villages launched an emergency relief program for refugees from Darfur in 2006. They focus on providing psychosocial care for traumatized children and their parents.
They presently care for about 230 children and adults. Many have been living in the camp since 2004.
Many children experience symptoms such as nightmares, bedwetting and behavioral problems.
These children are often in a state of anxiety and they often have hallucinations. The children attend group therapy sessions where they play, sing and paint.
They work closely together with UNHCR and International Rescue Committee in the camp.