i-ACT’s Gabriel Stuaring and James Thacher are in eastern Chad documenting the stories of Darfuri refugees. This trip, i-ACT #16, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur and the more recent influx of 300,000 new refugees into the region.
What have your last ten years been like? How has your life changed? And your family, how have your family’s hopes and dreams materialized and evolved over the last decade? What will the next ten years bring? As I’m flying over the Chadian desert on my way to visit a refugee camp close to the border with Darfur, it is hard for me to image living in a place that has stood still for the last ten years—the “Darfur Decade.”
I will get to visit again a beautiful refugee girl called Guisma. What have her last ten years been like? Well, it started when she was between three and five years old . Her village was attacked, and two brothers (11 and 14) were killed during that violent launch of the Darfur Decade. Her mother and father escaped with the surviving children. During the walk across the desert towards Chad, a young brother of Guisma’s died on her mother’s back. They had to bury him in the desert. They made it to the border and were brought to a refugee camp inside of Chad. A little sister was born in the camp, and Guisma seemed so happy, constantly playing with her and laughing contagious laughs. About a year later, that little girl died of some unknown illness.
Djabal Refugee Camp from the air. Photo: Gabriel Stauring/i-ACT
Guisma and her brothers have been living in the camp for most of the Darfur Decade, eating the same food from rations, sleeping in the same grass huts, and having only their imagination to take them away from the confines of refugee life. Achta, the mother, hopes that her children will have a better future, but I wonder if she really believes the next decade will be any different from the last.
In 2013, another 300,000 Darfuris have been displaced because of violence. There are tens of thousands of little Guisma’s now sitting under trees at the border, waiting for their new Darfur Decade to begin. Where will they and Guisma be ten years from now?