Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 17, 2009

Into Abu Shouk

   A Page from my Journal | 24 February 2005 | Abu Shouk IDP Camp

   I awoke a few minutes after 5:00 AM and spent some time alone with God before starting the day. Breakfast this morning consisted of hard-boiled eggs, bread, and coffee. After breakfast, Dr. Jerry Squyres, our team leader, led our morning devotion and prayer time. We also are all grateful to have so many at home who are praying daily for us and for the displaced people living in Darfur. One friend told me before we left that he would pray but that he wanted for me to understand that prayer may not stop a bullet. I told him that I don’t have a death-wish but I do believe that I am safe until God is through with me.

   Today we will visit Abu Shouk, one of the largest camps for internally displaced people in Darfur. This is the camp that Colin Powell, Secretary of State for the Bush administration, visited. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We concluded — I concluded — that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility — and genocide may still be occurring.” Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations also visited Abu Shook.

   Our first order of business was to get permission from the local authorities to travel to Abu Shouk. Authorities here monitor the activity of foreigners very carefully because the area is still dangerous and several foreign workers have been killed here in the past year. It took a while for our paperwork to be processed, but we were granted permission to visit Abu Shouk. We drove from the police station through unpaved roads hemmed in by mud-plastered fences toward the IDP camp. Once outside of Al-Fashir we followed a winding road across treeless vistas to Abu Shouk — home to over eighty-five thousand individuals displaced by the conflict.

Kids Running-2   As we drove into the camp, children ran up to meet our vehicle. They were so happy to see us and greeted us with smiles. Our vehicle was quickly surrounded by children who reached out to touch us, to make a connection. I could not help but pray that these children will not be tipped from innocence to hatred by what is happening here. We have already seen enough teenagers with guns in our short time here.

Woman at Well   Abu Shouk is a sobering sight that brought the reality of what is happening in Darfur into sharp focus. It is a vast community of tiny mud-brick homes, straw homes, and occasional blue tarps formed into tents accenting the dusty brown plain outside of Al-Fashir. Not a shade tree in sight. Mothers holding children were lined up at every water well, waiting their turn to fill plastic jugs with the water that keeps them tenuously tethered to life here. The lines at every well were long and snaked out in every direction. This is job number one for mothers and older children. Families have to have a representative at the well at all times. Water and shade is the only ammunition the people have to fight off the strangulating heat.

   We also visited the hospital in Al-Fashir today. Part of our purpose here is to meet with the few doctors responsible for providing medical care in this part of Darfur. Our team assessed both the practical medical needs of the hospital as well as the condition of the compressors that provide the electricity needed by the hospital. Abysmal is the best rating our professionals could give. We saw several people wounded in the conflict, including one little girl. The doctors told us that when there is any kind of fighting, they are inundated with wounded people. This is like having only one hospital with eight doctors to handle all of the emergencies in Dallas and Fort Worth.

   We had an extended meeting with several of the local doctors in the evening. Their dedication is truly inspiring. They do an amazing work with the few scant resources at their disposal. We were able to make recommendations regarding practical ways to improve sanitation, the condition of their compressors, and more. Fortunately, the NGO we represent will follow-up on our recommendations and is committed to digging additional wells in and around Abu Shouk. When things are as desperate as they are here, every act of kindness results in lives saved.

   Once again, today has been an eye-opening and emotional day. There is so much to process. I am writing these notes in my journal late at night. It’s hard to sleep, not only because of the heat but because of what I have seen and heard. I have no right to complain about anything. I don’t have to stand in the heat all day to fill up a plastic jug with water. I have access to the world’s best medical care. I can go to any of a dozen grocery stores in my community and shop in air-conditioned comfort. Being on site has given me new insight that will inform my prayers tonight.


  1. I love reading your journal entries Omar – you are gifted and blessed. I pray that I can do the same type of work.

    God Bless

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