> Departure: Khor Shamam, South Darfur State, Sudan
> Arrival: Nyala, South Darfur State, Sudan
> Distance: 120km
Sixteen-year-old Adam remembers how his father spent days and nights with their animals amid rumours that their village Khor Shamam, South Darfur, would be targeted by rebel militias.
“When the war in Darfur first erupted our village was safe, despite occasional rumours that attacks were being planned,” Adam says, referring to the conflict which started in 2003 when rebels took up arms and accused the government of neglecting their homeland.
Civilians were often caught in the crossfire of clashes between Sudanese troops and rebels.
Then, one rainy autumn night in 2006, Adam heard gunshots. First he ignored them as guards often shoot at night to ward off criminals. This time, however, the gunshots grew louder and nearer, ringing out from all corners of his village.
“My mother gathered us together and went to the barn to check on my father,” Adam remembers. “She found him shot, lying dead on his bed.” He heard his mother screaming for help and he ran with his siblings to the barn. They found her crying helplessly, cradling her dead husband in her arms.
The family fled the militia attack and, hiding outside their village, they watched as the attackers set fire to all the houses. Adam’s mother cried until sunrise, her children gathered around her.
The next morning Adam’s family returned to the ashes of their village. “The attackers left after looting every home and burning what they could not carry,” he says. Neighbours helped bury his father and the many others who had been killed by the rebels.
Adam’s family stayed in the village even though they had no food. “Then a second attack came 20 days after the first one. It was even more violent,” Adam says.
Hiding in a pick-up truck, he and his family travelled to Salam Camp, south of Nyala, paying exorbitant prices for tickets. Adam and his family are among the more than 2.3 million people who have been displaced since the Darfur conflict broke out. Most are struggling with shortages in camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad.
“My family of 13 members arrived in the camp late at night,” Adam says. “We had no option but to endure the days to come.” Relatives who were already at the camp gave them some food and shelter and then humanitarian organisations began supporting the family with wheat, sugar and soap.
Adam was just a child but had to work to support his mother and ten siblings. He loaded and unloaded trucks, then took up farming and other kinds of day labour. These days he makes about 20 to 30 Sudanese pounds per day (U$3 to 5) and sometimes he receives financial support from his uncle in Damazin, allowing him to take a week off. Most of his earnings go straight to his family, apart from a small amount which pays for his studies.
“I never expected to bear such burden at such a young age,” he says, adding that he still hopes for peace to return. “I want to go back and study. One day I want to become an engineer.”