Donkey Sanctuary & SPANA help in Sudan

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2008:
ABU SHAWK, Sudan–While most international aid groups
working in North Darfur focus on helping displaced humans, the
Donkey Sanctuary and Society for Protection of Animals Abroad are
saving their asses–a top priority for the 27,000 displaced families
now filling the Abu Shawk refugee camp, if they are ever to return
to their pre-war way of life.
“Donkeys are the most valuable assets for the people in the
region of Darfur,” Donkey Sanctuary representative Mohamed Majzoub
Fidiel told the Middle East Network for Animal Welfare conference in
Cairo in December 2007.

Before the war, Fidiel said, “A rural household in the
rural area that did not posses a donkey was described as extremely
poor,” in part because donkeys served in place of checking accounts
and credit cards as movable assets of quick cash value. “Donkeys
were used mainly as pack animals to carry crops from villages to
markets, in collecting water and firewood, and for riding,” Fidiel
recounted, emphasizing the value of donkeys in fetching daily water
supplies from wells often located several kilometers from rural
Farmers in northern Darfur formerly used camel-drawn ploughs,
Fidiel said. “Since armed bandits started looting camels,” he
continued, “many farmers have replaced them with donkeys.”
Fidiel found in a June 2007 survey that about 40% of the Abu
Shawk refugees arrived on donkeys, while 12% “used both donkeys and
walking.” Only about half of them–26% of the displaced
families–still have a donkey.
“About 97% lost donkeys during their flight from their home
villages,” Fidiel learned. “Of these 74% were looted by Janjaweed,”
as the roving Arab militias of Darfur are called. “Three percent of
the donkeys died on the road, and 12% were left behind by their
people as they rushed out of the villages.”
Sixty percent of the respondents told Fidiel that donkey
theft had occurred in their villages; 73% “mentioned that donkeys
are subject to theft in the camp.”
But the most appalling loss of donkeys came in the first two
years of the five-year-old Abu Shawk camp, when relief agencies
failed to provide for the animals who arrived with the people. As
many as 12,000 donkeys starved in the severely overgrazed surrounding
desert. Only 2,200 donkeys survived the winter of 2003-2004, and
just 1,300 remained by October 2004, when SPANA chief executive
Jeremy Hulme and veterinary director Karen Jones began a feeding
“United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization
representative John Omukuba told me that each family needs at least
two donkeys before they can go back to their farms and start
rebuilding their lives,” Hulme said at the time.
The lost donkeys are not easily replaced. The FAO has
reported that the prices of cattle, sheep, and goats in Darfur have
doubled since 2003, but the price of donkeys increased 50 to 100

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