We recently traveled to Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad for the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program. Djabal is one of two Darfuri refugee camps in southeastern Chad and is only accessible by plane or by unpaved roads. The six-hour commute from Abeche — the central NGO-hub in the country — makes Djabal a rare destination for most. We traveled to Djabal in order to develop video profiles of Darfuri students living in the camps. The students we met in Djabal were in primary school levels 3-6, the equivalent of 3rd through 6th grades in the United States.
Several internally displaced person (IDP) camps surround Djabal. The IDP camps are home to local Chadian groups who have been displaced from their villages due to inter-ethnic violence. From an aerial view, Djabal camp is organized in communal zones, but is quite spread out compared to other refugee camps. Although there is additional room available in Djabal, the refugees are prohibited by the local militias from cultivating the land or setting up other means to earn a livelihood.
With no opportunity for agricultural production, the Darfuri refugees living in eastern Chad are forced to explore other, sometimes dangerous, means of survival. Darfuri women, in particular, engage in the early morning ritual of collecting straw and firewood, despite being under threat of attack from local militias. Women who gather excess firewood often walk to the nearby town of Goz Beida in the hope of selling the wood and earning enough to purchase vegetables or meat.
Over 60 percent of the 20,000 refugees in Djabal camp are children. The camp currently has six primary schools, Obama, Ocampo, Sudan Djedid, Sultan Tadjadine, Ali Dinar A, and Ali Dinar B, which serve a total of 3,530 students. A shortage of teachers and safe buildings, as well as a lack of supplies make it difficult to give these children the education they desire. Through the Sister Schools Program, the Darfuri refugee children will finally have access to quality education. Below is a photo slideshow of Ali, one of the children we met in Djabal.
The authors are members of i-ACT, an advocacy organization that harnesses the power of video and the internet. As part of the Sister Schools Program, i-ACT will travel frequently to eastern Chad to set up the video connection between U.S. schools and the Darfuri refugee camps schools.