Friday, January 26, 2007


Yesterday was a very difficult anniversary for me. I have started a post on the topic a few times, but always find that there is no way for me to write a short post about the complicated events of a year ago. There is just too much to tell, and too many difficult emotions that I don't like to face.

So I decided to post this obituary, which was written by a friend, and which appeared in the Nutrition Field Exchange, a magazine for aid workers. It is a memorial to a kind young woman whose life, like many of those lost in the crisis in Darfur, was ended much too soon. I knew her and her colleagues only a very short while, but their warmth, generosity, and ability to endure such a difficult time so gracefully left such a mark on me.

Hadja Ahmed Mohamed Medini

Hadja Ahmed worked on GOAL’s emergency/nutrition team in Golo, Jebel Marra, part of Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region. On January 25 2006, Hadja was killed when a UN helicopter evacuating aid workers from Jebel Marra crashed. Earlier that week, Golo was attacked by the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), seeking to dislodge the government forces garrisoned in the town.

All aid agencies had to withdraw from Golo and GOAL has indefinitely suspended operations in the Jebel Marra region. GOAL continues to work from El-Fasher and in the Kutum area of north Darfur, running 9 clinics and supplying water-sanitation and supplementary feeding to IDP camps in the vicinity of Kutum town. Golo and the Jebel Marra has been a flashpoint area throughout Darfur’s conflict. Lush, fertile mountain terrain mark the area out from much of Darfur, which is arid/semi-arid.

Hadja was married with one nine year old son and was from Jebel Mara. She joined GOAL in 2004, working on a 6-month contract initially, and by June 2005 was hired as a full-time member of the nutrition team. Vivienne Alex is GOAL’s Field Nutrition Manager in Sudan and knew Hadja well. She met Hadja’s brother in Khartoum on February 22. She said that “they are still very sad. It is a great loss to the family. There were just 2 daughters – and Hadja is gone now.” She described her deceased colleague as “responsible, motivated, willing to learn about nutrition, and dedicated to helping her neighbours, friends in Jebel Marra and Darfur.”

GOAL ran supplementary feeding programmes in 9 sites in Jebel Marra, working at various camps for internally-displaced people (IDPs). Hadja was at the forefront of this activity. Alex described how Hadja was meticulous in her approach to peer education – teaching mothers with children under 5 as well as pregnant and lactating mothers how best to nourish their children in IDP camp conditions. GOAL again takes this opportunity to offer our condolences to Hadja’s husband, son and wider family. Her loss has been felt deeply and she will be sorely missed.

I put Hadja on the helicopter that day. After three days of waiting, and only one helicopter arriving to ferry out 42 staff, we didn't know if another helicopter would come, and I wanted the young mothers to be the first out, before the fighting came to where we were. I was supposed to be on the helicopter as well, but instead was told to stay on the ground to oversee the rest of the evacuation.

I am very grateful for the friendship of the one other international staff member who was there with me. He contacted me yesterday for the first time in a year, and it was good to know that I am not the only one still affected by my memories of Darfur, although it saddens me to think of Hadja's family and the others still in Sudan, with the aid agencies pulling out and no support left to turn to.

That's all I can really say on this. Another day I will write more.


Jesse said...

G~ thank you for sharing. Love ~ J