"Our motivation comes from the suffering and pain of our community": We are helping people in Sudan together with the local NGO AWAFY

Published: Mar 14, 2024 Reading time: 7 minutes
© Foto: AWAFY

To help the people of Darfur, we have teamed up with the Sudanese organisation AWAFY. Since violence erupted in April 2023 estimated 6.6 million people—half of them children—have fled their homes, giving Sudan the highest number of displaced people in any country in the world.

The access to humanitarian aid is limited in Darfur, no international organisation can work there. We provided AWAFY with Club of Friends funds to alleviate the suffering of internally displaced people in camps in Zalingei, Central Darfur. The people there are in need of food, clean water, and better hygiene, and there is a shortage of medical assistance. We have provided material and financial support to selected households, allowing them to purchase what they need most and to help them support the local economy. We facilitated the construction and repair of toilets and ensured a supply of clean water.

Read our interview with Mohammed Bera and Mohialdeen Ismail from AWAFY and learn about some stories of the conflict-affected people which our colleagues kindly shared with us.

Mohammed, Mohialdeen, where are you now? Could you tell us where you are calling from?

Mohammed: I am calling you from an office in our new headquarters. We were forced to move from our original headquarters to a safer place due to the war. Now, we are based in the centre of Darfur, which gives us access not only to the Darfur region but also to other places in Sudan. Now, we can carry on our work again.

Mohialdeen: After the first month of the war, we put an evacuation plan for senior staff, and we succeeded in evacuating 5 colleagues to Kampala. I am contacting you from Kampala, where I am able to work remotely in service of my community.

If you had to move your office for security reasons, does it mean that humanitarian workers are in danger in Sudan?

Mohammed: Yes. We have been going through some difficult situations, especially when conducting activities in the field. The conflicting parties often disturbed our efforts, and we were also forbidden to work. As the most recent example, we had a colleague arrested during his fieldwork. He is our logistics manager in our Zalingei office. Currently, due to the evolution of the conflict there are not as many clashes as before, so we can now continue to work.

The biggest problem is humanitarian access 

How many humanitarian organisations are there in Sudan?

Mohammed: There were a number of humanitarian organisations operating in Sudan, but due to the war, they had to leave or relocate their offices to other countries—now, they work remotely. Some of the organisations operate in the field in eastern Sudan, but in western Sudan only AWAFY operates at present.

How big is AWAFY?

Mohammed: We have 15 employees, of which 5 people work remotely from Kampala and provide mainly technical support. And 10 people work in the field.

Where exactly and how does AWAFY help?

Mohammed: We have been helping mainly in central and the south of Darfur so far. But within our new 2024 strategy we would like to cover the whole Darfur region. Our main activities include emergency response and documenting violations of human rights both in Darfur and the whole of Sudan. But our primary focus is on the humanitarian response now because this is what people need most.

What are the humanitarian challenges in Darfur?

Mohammed: The biggest problem is humanitarian access to Darfur. So far there has been no significant intervention by international or local humanitarian NGOs. At this point, civilians and refugees mostly need water, food, shelter, and healthcare. We are doing our best to ensure their needs.

You focus on helping displaced people. Could you tell us what their life looks like? Where do they stay?

Mohammed: These people were forced to leave their homes due to the war; some of them lost their relatives or family. Now, they stay in temporary shelters at the IDP site. However, these places cannot even ensure their most basic needs. They have poor sanitation systems; the buildings are in a poor state, and there are no services provided. Winter is brutal for those people because they live in shelters which do not protect them from the harsh weather conditions. These people are some of the most vulnerable, and that is why we help them.

They lost everything and did not have even the smallest amount of money left

How do you perceive our collaboration?

Mohammed: In AWAFY we consider this collaboration as our greatest success of the last year. It is mainly because of the scope of the impact it will have. Thanks to that, we can support many people who need our help not only in Darfur but also in other parts of Sudan.

What will our help look like?

Mohammed: Our help is going to include mainly the distribution of the cash, because the current situation does not allow us to provide material humanitarian assistance to the affected areas. Also, people can decide which particular items are the priority for them. They can buy the things they really need the most. Thus, we have chosen to distribute cash so that they can meet their basic needs.

What do people usually buy for the money provided?

Mohammed: People usually buy food; this is the priority for most of them.

Where do they buy the items they need? Do local markets work?

Mohammed: Yes, the local markets are functioning, and the items are available so that they can access them easily.

How do you assess which people are you going to help?

Mohammed: Before we start aid delivery, we conduct an assessment and then a survey. After that we analyse the data and verify the assessment once again to be sure that our result is accurate.

Can you share some stories of people who receive our help?

Mohialdeen: One of the most impactful stories for us is the one of the family of six members. They lost everything and did not have even the smallest amount of money left. They could not buy even water for their children and were dependent on help from their neighbours. We provided them with the money in order to cover their needs. They were very grateful for this help.

Also, we are in close contact with our beneficiaries; many of them are internally displaced people, and we often become close friends. They also talk about AWAFY in their community and help us to spread awareness. 

Mainly, civilians suffer from this war.

How did you become humanitarian workers?

Mohialdeen: I have a background in computer science and Mohammed in civil engineering. But due to the situation in Sudan we decided to help our community in the country. Also, I have experienced the situation of being displaced from my village, which was back in 2003. Then, I managed to finish my studies in Central Darfur. I met some nice people together with whom we started to work for AWAFY.

Mohammed: I was a young person with a revolutionary background; I always wanted change and to bring peace to our community. Then, I was part of a programme which took place in Nairobi, where I learned how to act in case of an emergency or conflict so that I could do humanitarian work and support the community. And then, I joined AWAFY. 

Your work must often be stressful and exhausting. From where do you draw energy and motivation?

Mohialdeen: Our motivation comes from the suffering and the pain of our community. We realise how difficult the situation is for the Sudanese people, and we want to help them. This is why we are still working.

Sudan's recent history is marked by wars, particularly in Darfur and between the north and south. South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, becoming the world's youngest state. The situation drastically worsened on 15 April 2023 when clashes erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Their leaders, Burhan and Hemeti, were originally allies and, in 2019, helped overthrow then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Autor: Eva Mrázková

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