Lisa Jean next to the omda (mayor) of Muradaf near Um Dukhun - Central Darfur - SUDAN
Photo : Yousif Ibrahim Yousif / TGH ©
1 / What are TGH's current missions in Sudan?
TGH has been working in Sudan since 2004, and is currently operating in two out of the five states comprising the Darfur Region - Central Darfur and West Darfur - with respectively 2.5 million and 905,000 inhabitants. Historically, TGH has had a base in Geneina, capital of West Darfur, and in two remote and rural areas of Central Darfur, Bindizi and Um Dukhun. In 2014, TGH also opened a base in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, in order to operate in the IDP camps of Teiba and El Salam. Since 2017, humanitarian aid has become available in new areas of conflict. TGH set up a base in one of the cities affected by the violent conflicts that struck Jebel Mara in 2016, opposing the government and the faction of the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army) led by Abdul Wahid. More than 130,000 civilians have been displaced by the conflict.
Since the mission started in Sudan, TGH has been working on providing access to water (rehabilitation, or construction of emergency or sustainable water points depending on the situation), and on advancing hygiene and sanitation (construction of latrines, for example). In emergency situations, TGH is also implementing other means, such as distributing basic necessities (blankets, jerrycans, mattresses, kitchen sets, etc.) and providing shelters. The NGO also contributes to improving the food security of the most vulnerable populations and strives to ensure the sustainability of its actions by proposing activities related to people's livelihoods. Since 2017, TGH has also resumed its activities in the education sector, particularly in areas settled by returnees, on the Chad border. The returnees are Sudanese refugees who sought refuge in Chad during the armed conflict in Darfur, but who have since returned to their homeland in Sudan following a relative improvement in security conditions and a decrease in humanitarian aid to Chad.
2/ What is the situation of the country today?
Today, the sentiment in Sudan is mixed, engulfed by both relief and distrust. Last October 6, the US administration's decision to lift the economic sanctions that had been imposed on Sudan since 1997 was a landmark decision. It was largely influenced by a number of measures taken by the Sudanese government, notably to facilitate humanitarian work on a daily basis as well as to make humanitarian aid more accessible in previously shut off areas. The results are not yet very visible in the field. Therefore I am quite cautious when mentioning current "changes". In terms of making procedural changes, advances in accessibility are still marginal, even if they do exist. The opening remains fragile and heavily conditioned to various authorizations from the authorities. In principle, the launching of a disarmament campaign by the government is also a breakthrough; however the process is not yet advanced enough to see its effects in the field. In substance, little has changed, and time alone will show the real evolutions. Getting clear information remains a challenge, rules continue to change, and the security, economic and political situations are still extremely volatile.
3/ Can you describe your missions? How long do they last?
The Sudan mission is managed remotely from Khartoum. Permanent Sudanese teams are in the field, but the expatriates are based in Khartoum and travel regularly to Darfur. For security reasons, expats cannot stay on the same base for more than a week. Missions in the field are the most significant moments in a given project. They shed some light on the reality of life in Sudan and on the difficulties faced by humanitarian workers. They help us apprehend the physiognomy of the area of intervention as well as the politico-humanitarian situation specific to each locality. But time is short and the possibilities are generally quite limited during these short trips.
Insofar as possible, I organize my missions in order to have enough time in the field to carry out assessments and to work and interact with the teams. I also try to go to all of the bases during my trips, in order to have a clear idea of all the current projects and difficulties encountered by the teams.
4/ Is there a project that is more important to you?
To be honest, all projects are important to me! Prioritizing would be a difficult task.
Children beneficiaries taking water from tapstand at Nertiti new water tank - Central Darfur - Sudan
Photo : TGH ©
Some returnee villages in Um Dukhun, where TGH was one of the only organizations providing first assistance in 2015, mainly through water, hygiene and sanitation projects, are now benefiting from education-related activities implemented as part of the mission. In the villages where the returnees’ most urgent needs were met within the first two years of them returning to Sudan, the populations now benefit from development projects. It is extremely rewarding for the teams working on the missions to see their projects reach such positive outcomes and sense of continuity.
Because it is so new, the water, hygiene and sanitation project in Golo is an extremely important part of the mission. This area, most recently affected by violent conflicts, has remained inaccessible to NGOs for almost a year. Among the daily challenges of Jebel Mara's population are the crucial ones of food and water. With the current project, TGH contributes to improving living conditions through providing access to water and hygiene. However, as the region recently opened up, many urgent needs appeared, and TGH will propose new interventions during the year 2018 (Protection, Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, and Food Security).
5/ For how long have you worked in the humanitarian sector? What is your background?
Driven by humanitarian values and a need for change, I left the business world in 2015 after an interview at TGH with the objective of going on a mission to Sudan. I wanted to confront the humanitarian realities and expand my career prospects and my vision of the world. My plan was to stay 6 months. I have now been living in Sudan for more than two years! The TGH mission in Sudan is my first humanitarian experience, and it has taught me a lot! It is fascinating, and I have learned a lot from it. Before leaving, I completed a specialized online training on the financial management of international solidarity organizations. I have a diversified background consisting of studies in law, political science and finance. My professional experiences are based on activities in Europe and abroad in different public and private structures. From now on, I know that my next professional choices will naturally go towards humanitarian missions.