United Methodist Committee on Relief

In Sudan: Skills Training Allows Displaced Persons to Feed Their Families

At his shop in El Fardous market center, Zakarea Mohammed Ahmed Adam helps a customer with cell phone repair in May 2016. Photo by Mustefa Zekaria At his shop in El Fardous market center, Zakarea Mohammed Ahmed Adam helps a customer with cell phone repair in May 2016. Photo by Mustefa Zekaria

Thanks to the UMCOR program, Zakarea Mohammed Ahmed Adam can care for his extended family

By Gorfu Degefa Megerssa*

Years after local violence chased Zakarea Mohammed Ahmed Adam, his wife, children, and extended family from their home, he finally is able to provide for them all, thanks to the Lifesaving Skills Training program the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) made available to him and other internally displaced persons (IDP) in East Darfur State, Sudan.

Besides his wife and three children, Ahmed, 35, has six more dependents for whom he is responsible:two younger brothers, two sisters, and his elderly mother and father. He was well prepared to provide for them on his father’s farm, until armed conflict erupted in their village, Alndeef, in Buram Locality, South Darfur State.

“My father had plenty of cattle and arable land. He grew crops such as groundnut, millet, watermelon, and sorghum. We were a happy family, and as I am my parents’ firstborn,” Ahmed recounted, “my father trusted me to ensure my younger brothers’ and sisters’ schooling. But his dreams for our success were shaken when tribal conflict erupted between the Flata and Salamat peoples in May 2007.”

An armed group of the Flata people attacked Alndeef, killing five and wounding nine. They stole cattle and household belongings, and then burned down the village. More than 1,200 Salamat families, including Ahmed’s, were forced to flee in search of safety.

“We journeyed on foot for two days and finally reached the village of Greada, still in South Darfur State. The next day, we traveled by vehicle to El Fardous Locality in neighboring East Darfur State. There, we stayed under a tree for a whole week. Then the local authorities provided us shelter in an IDP camp. We had food aid [from the World Food Program] for over a year.”

But life inside the camp was difficult, Ahmed said. “There was not enough food. We generally ate just one meal a day, and sometimes we adults reduced our own portions in order to feed the children. There were no income sources, no farming or cattle, so it was difficult to send the children to school. We only sent three of them, while the others sought work as day laborers during peak farming season — the only employment available — to help the family.”

The need among IDPs in East Darfur State to generate sustainable income to feed their families is felt by many. UMCOR, with funding support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), has responded to the need by developing the Lifesaving Skills Training program, targeting especially women and youth in East Darfur. The program offers training in seven different skills and, upon completion, provides participants with essential startup kits.

Ahmed is one of 15 participants trained in 2013. He attended both basic and advance training in cell phone repair, each for three months. He also completed a one-month apprenticeship with a local business owner to acquaint himself with real market scenarios. The startup kit UMCOR provided him included a small generator and the tools he would need for repairing cell phones.

“UMCOR’s support changed my life from the worst it could be to the best,” Ahmed said. “My monthly income has increased from zero to 2,000 SDG [about $312.50]. Now I can provide enough food for my entire family. I can also provide them with medicine, and I can send all of the children to school, instead of sending some to work so the family can eat. Thank you, UMCOR!”

With OFDA’s support, UMCOR has trained 122IDPs, including 69 women, through the Lifesaving Skills Training program, providing them with the means to generate the income they need to feed and care for their families.

*Gorfu Degefa Megerssa is programs manager for UMCOR Sudan.

This story is part of a larger series on Sudan. Read more stories in the series from our feature story