If you lived in South Kordofan, Sudan, you would have spent the last four years ducking into fox holes and running into caves, desperate to survive the aerial attacks that are an everyday part of your life.
People have been living in fear in South Kordofan since the Government of Sudan began to attack them in an attempt to stem support for the armed rebel movement - the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army - North (SPLA-N).
Determined at any cost to defeat the armed rebel movement, the Sudanese military are waging an unrelenting campaign of aerial and ground attacks against people living in rebel controlled areas. The Government sends ‘Antonov’ planes to target areas where people live and work – there are no military targets in sight.
There are no military targets around. The Antonovs are for us. You will always find the Antonovs circling above where civilians live.
Death and destruction from the skies
The unmistakable droning sound of Antonov planes dominate daily life. Young children are attuned to it, the elderly worry that they will not be able to reach safety quickly enough, and the eyes of women and men can often be seen scanning the sky in an effort to determine whether a circling plane poses a likely danger or not.
Between January and April 2015 alone, the military dropped about 374 bombs in 60 locations across South Kordofan.
Nada, an adult education student, who was injured in the thigh by a piece of shrapnel when a bomb hit her school on 8 May, said:
“It is now just something we expect. Bombs can fall at any time, and they can fall anywhere, even in a school. We don’t think about moving somewhere else because it would be just as bad there also”.
© GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI
Nobody feels safe in South Kordofan
Nowhere is safe. Bombs fall on people’s homes both during the day while they are having lunch and at night while they are sleeping.
In February 2015 the Mother of Mercy Hospital received survivors of an Antonov attack in Umm Dorain County. Eight children and one adult hid in a foxhole when they heard the plane. However when a bomb hit a nearby shelter setting on fire the roof was blown off and fell into the foxhole where they were hiding. Three of the children were killed instantly. The other five children and the adult were transferred to the hospital. Three of the survivors, all children, died at the hospital and the other three were eventually released.
Sadly, this is not unusual. On 18 April 2015, Fighter jets fired four bombs at the village of Eral in Heiban County. Thirteen year old Khalil Yusuf Ergajig tried to run to a nearby foxhole, with four other children, but he did not make it in time. He was killed by shrapnel only a few meters away from safety.
I was some distance from where the bomb landed and there were two other buildings in front of me. But still some shrapnel reached me and was embedded in my skull…
The conflict in numbers
Bombs dropped in four months across 60 locations in SPLA-N controlled territory
Number of children who died from a measles outbreak May 2014-January 2015 due to lack of essential medicines
The number of functional hospitals left to serve over 1.2 million people in the SPLA-N controlled areas
Years of unrelenting attacks
Sudan has endured decades of civil war. In 2005, a peace agreement was signed (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement – CPA) which ended the conflict between the Sudan Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and to the split Sudan into two countries, Creating Sudan in the North and South Sudan. South Kordofan is part of Sudan (in the North).
Most of the South Kordofan population are from nomadic Misseriya and Hawazma Arab tribes and agriculturalist African Nuba communities. Having faced years marginalisation by governments of Sudan many support South Sudan and some fought alongside the SPLA during the civil war.
The current conflict in June 2011. One of the triggers was failure to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Under the CPA, the people of South Kordofan should have been consulted on what they wanted for the future of the state.
Reduced to living in a cave
The Sudanese military can launch a bombing or artillery attack at any time, with no warning, so people have developed ways to protect themselves. They have constructed makeshift and semi-permanent foxholes throughout the region, offering quick routes to safety. Others are living in temporary shelters in the Nuba Mountains where they can hide in caves and crevices.
© GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI
Cut-off from the world
Bombs don’t only fall on people’s homes, they fall on schools, hospitals and even food stores. But no-one can get assistance because the Sudanese government has cut off SPLM-N controlled areas from the rest of the world.
Hundreds of people have died because they can’t reach hospitals or health services. State health care in South Kordofan has been decimated. Hospitals have been bombed, medical personnel have fled and essential medicines are not available.
Alfadil Khalifa Mohammed lost his wife, Nahid Said Komi, 27, who was eight months pregnant, in an attack on 8 May 2015. The attack happened at a camp where they had fled to find safety. The baby was still alive when Nahid died and might have survived. He said, "It is too far to go when we need to go to a hospital. So many clinics and hospitals have been bombed and forced to shut down. The only place where my baby’s life might have been saved was the hospital in Gidel. But there was no way to get there. We would have had to walk, which would have taken far too long. People are dying here because they can’t access medical care."
Between May 2014 and January 2015, there was a measles outbreak. The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) carried out a vaccination campaign in the rest of Sudan, but were unable to get to rebel controlled areas of South Kordofan because of Government restrictions, preventing children living there getting vaccinated. Thirty children died.
A woman who had [suffered] many miscarriages was able finally carry a baby to full term [after treatment only to lose] her child in the measles outbreak.
Don’t we matter?
The conflict in South Kordofan received a lot of international coverage and attention when it first began. But as attacks have intensified and casualties have risen over the last four years, the world seems to have lost interest.
The international community are failing to stop the Government of Sudan targeting men, women and children. Abandoning them to fight for their survival without any humanitarian assistance.
We have been telling the world for four years about what is happening to us. The facts are well known. But nothing changes. Is it because we do not matter to the world?"