First Person

Losing everything but hope: Halima’s story

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People newly uprooted from their homes in Darfur now live in makeshift shelters. Many have made long and dangerous journeys to reach camps like this where they can find, if not comfort, at least a measure of safety. Photo: Sahar Ali/Oxfam America

A survivor of the recent violence in Darfur still dares to dream of a better future.

A wave of violence in the Darfur region of Sudan has uprooted more than 200,000 people in recent weeks. Oxfam humanitarian coordinator Sahar Ali recently visited families who have fled their homes and now live in a camp for displaced people. Watch a video message from Sahar about the crisis.

“I want you to tell the story of Halima,” said Sahar, as we finished up a long day at the office. She was afraid that in the heat of the new Darfur emergency I would forget.

But I don’t think Sahar will ever forget the conversation she had with the young woman (whose name we have changed for her protection).

They met a few days ago in a camp in Darfur where families have gathered—some because their towns and villages are no longer safe; some because they no longer exist. All wish there were a better choice.  It is sweltering there, and there is no natural protection from the sun and glare—barely a tree or even a blade of grass for as far as you can see.

It is in camps like these that Oxfam and our partners are providing aid like clean drinking water, soap, and plastic sheeting. Sahar coordinates that work from Khartoum, but she visits Darfur to see firsthand how things are going, and to hear from the people at the heart of our work.

Last week, she joined Halima in her makeshift shelter and asked her how she came to be there. Halima told the story quietly.  Armed militiamen arrived at her village one day. They took what was valuable and burned the rest. She and her family fled with their neighbors in all directions. Halima had a donkey to carry her four young children, and a horse and cart to haul a few belongings and some food.

And then her little group met the militia on the road.  Her family survived the encounter, but not everyone did. And when they moved on, there was no horse, no cart, no donkey, and no food.

From there on out, she said, “We walked at night when it was dark so they couldn’t see us.” Five days later, they reached a camp.

Halima is deeply shaken by what happened to her and her family.  She no longer has any belongings, and she has no home. “I don’t think we will go back again,” she said, and who could blame her?

But she’s learned that her mother and brothers and sisters made it safely to another camp, and when asked, she still dares to look into the future and dream that it could be better.  “I would love to complete my education,” she said, and she smiled a little at the thought of it.

As armed conflict drives more people from their homes, Oxfam America and our partners need your help to provide life-saving assistance. Donate now. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+