As armed militias attacked and pillaged her village near the town of El Geneina in western Darfur region of Sudan, pregnant 23-year-old Zamzam Adam was stranded, in labour, and alone, as neighbours fled across the border into Chad.
The conflict between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has not spared her village Ayatine, in the western Darfur region where a two-decade-old conflict and simmering violence has been re-ignited by the fighting.
Residents and sources in the western Darfur region have reported looting, ethnic reprisal attacks and clashess between the army and the RSF which evolved from the janjaweed militias.
At least 96 people have been killed in Darfur since Monday in inter-communal violence rekindled by the conflict, according to the U.N. human rights office.
“In our village, armed people came and burned and looted houses and we were forced to flee,” said Adam.
As neighbours hurriedly packed up to leave amid detonations and gunfire, Adam found herself alone. Her husband had left for the east of the country in search of work and had not been heard from for a while.
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Her sister and mother heard from a neighbour that she was about to give birth. They rushed to her rescue.
When we arrived, she had already given birth and the people had left her alone. I cut the child’s umbilical cord and we cleaned her up,” Adam’s sister Souraya Adam, 27, told Reuters.
The women bundled the infant and immediately set out for the over 30 km (18 miles) trek across arid scrubland into Chad, where they joined around 20,000 other Sudanese refugees who have fled western Darfur for Chad since the fighting began.
“We let her rest for a while, and then we continued on to here,” Souraya Adam said, speaking at the Koufroun refugee camp in Chad.
Sitting on a mat under a tree, Zamzam Adam cradled and fed her 13-days-old infant who had cried for five days, her sister said.
“Now he is much better, he does not cry like before. I know that the child is sick, and his mother too,” Souraya Adam said, adding that her sister had developed rashes.
Around them, large crowds of women and children milled around the camp near the Sudanese border, while others rested in makeshift shelters of sticks and rushes tacked with pieces of cloth.
The wave of arrivals places an additional burden on Chad’s meagre resources, which were already strained by hosting 400,000 refugees who fled earlier conflict in Sudan.