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Meeting Khanissa Adam

Margaret Ward, foreign editor with RTE, provides a glimpse of what life is like for people affected by the conflict in Chad. This blog entry focuses on her time in the Gourounkoum camp near Goz Beida in eastern Chad.

The rain is falling as we meet Khanissa Adam who has been living in the Gourounkoum camp for displaced people since the spring of 2006. The rainy season lasts around three months here and Concern is distributing plastic sheeting. As we talk, barefoot children in rags play in the rain with a simple traditional toy, the tara, that is a little wheel that they try to balance at speed.

Khanissa is the wife of the chief of a village near the border with Sudan and has five children – the youngest is two years old. Her village and fields were destroyed and her family’s animals killed during an outbreak of violence: “We fled taking any donkeys we could, but donkeys are slow and it took us four days to get here.” 

The border between Chad and Sudan has seen a spillover from the Darfur conflict. 

Here in this camp near the town of Goz Beida those who have been displaced like Khanissa have stayed together in their village groups and kept their community structures. Khanissa’s husband is the village chief.

Despite suffering a major trauma, the people have built huts with circular roofs called tukels out of local material just like their huts back home. It’s a good reminder that people’s own coping skills are often as important, if not more, than any outside assistance. Now they are adding the donated plastic sheeting to help keep out the rain, which falls in monsoon-like showers during the rainy season.

“Life in our village is easier,” says Khanissa. “The land is good, we can grow our own crops, take care of our animals. Here we only have what we get from the aid agencies. If the security gets better we want to go home, if not we cannot go there.”