What's it like living in South Darfur's UNAMID supercamp?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 10 November 2015

The UNAMID supercamp  in Nyala, South Darfur. Photo by: Jenny Lei Ravelo / Devex

Despite the bureaucratic hurdles, access denials and restrictions posed on humanitarian movement, Sudan remains one of the most heavily funded humanitarian operations globally.

The money requested to be poured into aid efforts in the country — $1.04 billion in funding under the 2015 consolidated United Nations humanitarian response plan — means a continuous demand for professionals to help frame and assist in program design, coordination and implementation.

Most organizations have country offices in Khartoum, but aid operations are centered in the Darfur region, with some in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, as well as Abyei.

Unlike in the capital, however, life in Darfur can be limiting for international staff. Movement around the town without escort in Nyala town, for example, is discouraged given the threat of abduction by militia groups looking for quick money, and the risk of armed robbery or carjacking looms if traveling to field locations. U.N. staff members are almost always accompanied by armed escorts, either by the U.N.–African Union Mission in Darfur, or police escorts provided by the government of Sudan.

For safety reasons, most aid agencies have their own guesthouses — a compound or building where an organization’s staff members stay throughout their mission, often located within walking distance to an organization’s sub-office.

Some international staff members of U.N. aid agencies choose to stay within UNAMID compounds. Apart from acting as barracks for the military and police personnel contributed by different countries to the peacekeeping mission, the compounds are also meant to be used as locations for U.N. agency offices and residence. International NGO staff — as well as internally displaced people — can also have access inside the compound in case of emergencies.

There are three UNAMID “supercamps” across the Darfur region. Here’s a look at the one in Nyala in South Darfur.

At approximately 3 square kilometers, it’s a large compound that requires a vehicle to travel fully. Many use this as an opportunity to stay fit instead, although they also have a gym, which is empty at 8 a.m.
Sitting next to the gym is the only restaurant in the camp, which gets crowded later in the evening. Food here is cooked upon order.
In case you get an upset stomach though, don’t worry, as there’s hospital inside the compound.
The camp has two grocery stores. This one sells Post Exchange goods, such as canned goods, cookies, bottled water, sodas, and even perfume and items like towels (with the U.N. logo). It opens at 10 a.m.
Following a grenade attack in July 2013 that took the lives of two World Vision staff members, some international aid workers, including those of WFP, moved from their guesthouses to the UNAMID supercamp in Nyala. Here’s an example of where they might retire after a day’s work, fully air-conditioned.
You can also grow your own herbs and spices. Patches of land near each housing cluster can be used for gardening.
You have your own kitchen, complete with stove, water heater and refrigerator.
You also have your own bathroom with shower. But take note of the water schedule.

READ: 11 things to know if Sudan is your next duty station

The camp grounds at night.
U.N. staff gather here in the morning, waiting for their UNAMID escorts.

What’s your living situation like in Darfur? Share us your experience below.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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