A day of life in a Chadian camp

A day of life in a Chadian camp

Forced to leave her village, Hajida and her family are living in the Gouroukoun camp for internally displaced people, outside Goz Beida in eastern Chad. This is an account of one day in Hajida's life in the camp.

Hadijah’s day began at around 5.30am when she woke and made a meal for the family, from leftovers from the night before. She then went to collect water. There is a pump in the camp, but it is on the far side and generally there is not enough water. She usually checks before going to another pump which is about a mile and a half away. Even at 6.30am the temperature was up in the mid-30s.

Travelling for water

As there was no water left at that pump she had to go to a well nearly two miles away that her husband and friends dug. This well contains what she calls “bad water” – the colour of ditch water with a similar consistency. Hadija is not foolish – she understands that it will make her children sick, but she is sometimes left with no choice. On the way back, her two jerrycans filled with water weighed up to 40 kilos.

After bringing water back she gathered firewood with her eldest daughter. Most of the nearby firewood had already been taken. As a result, they were forced to compromise their safety by travelling further from the camp.

Their only income

It can take three days to gather enough wood to sell. To get to the market, they used their neighbour’s donkey, costing them a bowl of millet that they cannot afford to give away. At the market they hoped to get the equivalent of 70 cent. That could buy Hajida enough food to feed her family for a day and a half, possibly two.

Abdullah, (Hajida’s husband) went to the nearest town, two hours away, trying to find casual work. If lucky, he could come home with as much as two euro, but it’s usually more like 40-80 cent. Today, unable to get work, he came home with nothing.

In the early evening, Hajida made a meal for the family. She left some food aside for Abdullah, for when he returns.

Delivery of aid

A delivery of food aid arrived recently, so Hajida should receive some in a day or two. Not knowing when the food will be distributed means missing a day gathering wood, waiting, throwing her delicately balanced routine into chaos. She has only received two food aid packages in 15 months, each lasting for only 10-15 days. It varies as she sometimes has to trade some of the oil or corn soya blend for the use of a donkey, or a pan, when needed.

Hadija’s life is extremely hard, but would be made easier with regular distributions of food. She also needs strong plastic sheeting to protect her home from the imminent rains and the regular sandstorms which whip through the camp ferociously, easily penetrating the walls and roofs of her flimsy shelter. 

Hajida hopes that she and her family will one day be able to return to their own village. She is a proud woman and doesn’t want to live on hand-outs. When that might be, she does not know.

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