It's been three years since Nima fled her village of Abata, Sudan for the safety of Hamediya camp, one of several refuges for displaced families near Zalingei, West Darfur. Her husband had just been killed and, fearing for her safety, she fled quickly across more than 40 kilometers of harsh terrain to this camp. She was able to take with her only the clothes she was wearing.
"When we arrived, we had nothing," she says. "We were given soap and floor mats, which were all we had to sleep on. At the start of the rainy season, we received plastic sheets. Then we were given ‘kitchen sets' containing things like cups, spoons, plates and a kettle."
Since then, Mercy Corps has provided Nima with blankets, jerry cans to collect and store clean water in, and a plastic tub in which to do her laundry. Today, more than 41,000 people live in the Hamediya camp.
Across Zalengei, Mercy Corps distributes mosquito nets, blankets and other household supplies; maintains hand pumps to ensure a steady supply of clean, safe drinking water; employs residents to spread critical health messages; builds new latrines; carts away waste; and offers classes to adults in language, mathematics and business skills. More than 110,000 residents — including some living in villages outside the camps — benefit from these activities.
Of all the help Nima receives, it is the regular provision of soap, she says, that is probably the most crucial. In Hamediya, it doesn't take long for the children to get very dirty playing on the sandy ground. The soap helps the kids keep clean, and hygiene is especially important to fight off diarrhea and other diseases.
The plastic sheeting, too, helps maintain health, reinforcing shelters made from mud bricks and grass from the rain and sandstorms common throughout Darfur.
As Nima tells her story, her 9-month old daughter Safa plays quietly beside her. Safa was born in a mud-brick hut. Nima says her infant girl reminds her that, despite the many challenges she has faced over the past few years, things have improved since she arrived.
Nima now has a job with Mercy Corps working as an activities coordinator at a preschool in the camp, teaching the young children traditional songs, games and lessons. Her work provides new opportunities to learn and to help her neighbors, as well as securing some much-needed income.
To her, little Safa is a reminder that wonderful things can happen even during the most difficult of times.