Stories of survival and hope: Jamila Adam Hussein

Jamila Adam Hussein, a resident of El Geneina, shares her harrowing journey from conflict to Adré camp in eastern Chad, with Radio Tamazuj’s Survival and Hope series. Facing immense challenges, Jamila narrates the heartbreaking loss of her son and the relentless pursuit for survival amidst uncertainty.

Jamila Adam Hussein, a resident of El Geneina, shares her harrowing journey from conflict to Adré camp in eastern Chad, with Radio Tamazuj’s Survival and Hope series. Facing immense challenges, Jamila narrates the heartbreaking loss of her son and the relentless pursuit for survival amidst uncertainty.

Here are edited excerpts from the discussion:

Question: Could you introduce yourself?

Answer: My name is Jamila Adam Hussein from El Geneina. We left our area due to conflict, and now we are living as refugees here in Adré, depending on the monthly food rations provided by aid organizations, including sorghum, lentils, and oil.

Q: How many children do you have?

A: I have seven children.

Q: Where were you when the El Geneina incident took place?

A: We were at home, stranded for seven days without food or water. Initially, we left our house for about three hours before returning. Then, three robbers came to our house. As I tried to open the door for them, they jumped over the fence and killed one of my boys in front of me. I was devastated, hugging his body for over 24 hours.

There was no one to help me bury him because everyone was in hiding. The next day, some people heard my cries and came to my aid. It was difficult to find grave cloths, but we managed to get one and laid him to rest.

The following day was marked by the incident involving Governor Khamis Abakar, causing everyone to flee. We left our house barefoot, with my children thirsty and hungry as we headed to Adire. It was a horrific experience.

Q: How old was your son who was killed?

A: He was 25 years old. He was actually the son of my sister-in-law, but I raised him. When the armed robbers came, they asked him which tribe he was from. He replied, “I grew up here with you in the neighbourhood, and you all know my tribe. I can’t deny it; I am from Masalit.” One of them immediately shot him twice, and he fell and died. I rushed to him, hugging him as he died a few minutes later. It was incredibly painful, especially with my other children inside the room watching him die.

Q: So the other children were watching what was happening?

A: Yes. I kept them in the room and told them not to cry because the armed men might shoot them too. Since I couldn’t find anyone to help bury him, some of my children realized their brother was already dead.

Q: How did you make it to Adré camp?

A: It’s a long story, and we barely realized when we arrived in Adire. We went through many checkpoints, where we were searched and had some of our belongings confiscated. My children were crying because they were thirsty and hungry after walking such a long distance on foot. When we finally reached the entrance, aid organizations welcomed us with water and juice, and now we are here.

Q: Can you tell us more about your journey and the challenges you faced?

A: We faced many challenges. At one checkpoint, a man was killed in front of us, and two others were captured and taken away. They seized all our belongings and instructed us not to take anything except the clothes we were wearing. We walked barefoot the entire way.

Q: Did you experience any violence or injuries?

A: Along the way, I was shot in my right arm and suffered severe bleeding, leaving my arm paralyzed. My younger son had difficulty breathing due to the smoke from the gunfire. I feared he wouldn’t survive, but when we arrived, he was put on oxygen, which helped him. We had no place to stay, especially during the rainy season, so we collected nearby wood and erected a makeshift shelter.

We didn’t have any mats or buckets to fetch water. After a few days, an organization registered us and gave us some plates, utensils, and food. Despite the help, we have been suffering with no means to earn a living. I wash clothes and work in construction to provide a little food for my children, but it’s not enough to buy soap, sugar, and other necessities. I even borrowed money to start selling tea, but the income is very low. I thank God, but there’s nothing more I can do.

Q: Is there anyone helping or sending you assistance?

A: No, there is no one helping us. I am solely responsible for my children and my sisters. My husband is missing; we don’t know if he is dead or alive. I have been bearing the burden of my children’s needs, including their illnesses. If someone could support us, especially with the children’s education, it would be a huge relief. I don’t want them to keep thinking about their brother’s death, and I am unable to do anything for them.

Q: What is the latest information you have about their father?

A: We heard that he is alive; we received a phone call from him a long time ago. He seems to be stranded somewhere and wants to leave but can’t. We are thankful he is alive and aware of our son’s death. That’s enough for now. Some people think that because Sudanese refugees are given food in Adere, everything is fine, but that’s not true. Some families have relatives who send them money, and some are lucky to find work.

But for us, it’s a different story. We are suffering. We just want our children to go to school and receive any support, including psychological help. I constantly worry about how to feed my children without any work. How long can we live like this?

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in the camp?

A: Regarding the monthly food ration, it depends on the household size. If you have more than seven people, you receive about one sack (50kg) of sorghum. With children like mine, this sack only lasts about two weeks, so I have to find work to buy more food. I do various jobs like laying bricks, carrying construction materials, collecting firewood, and selling tea. Even working all day, I only earn between 200-300 Riyals. I still struggle with my seven children and hope for peace and stability in our country. While aid organizations provide security and health services, food remains insufficient, and women like me suffer.

Q: What motivates you to endure these hardships?

A: If I don’t stay strong, how will I raise my children? If I give up, we’ll face social rejection, and my children will suffer. Despite my struggles, I stay strong for them. I play both the roles of mother and father, trying to forget our suffering. I believe things will improve, and we’ll return to El Geneina soon. Though my children sometimes cry or feel sad, I reassure them that our situation will change, and they’ll go back to school.

Q: Do you have any wishes?

A: My wish is for someone to come to our aid and improve our situation. I want my children to receive education and have clothes to wear.