A trip with the French official down a dirt track, however, exposed a war zone where gunmen roamed. Sunburned men rode on camels, guns cradled on their laps, just steps from Mornay camp. One held a whip. Others herded hundreds of sheep, cattle and camels, smiling and waving as visitors passed. Aid workers and the displaced people in the camp said the animals were stolen.
Rapes and attacks continue around the edges of the camp every night, women there said, as they rocked sickly babies with hollow eyes. Each week in Mornay, at least five women and girls as young as 12 have been raped when they left the camp, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders. The real number is thought to be far higher because many women are reluctant to report attacks.
Soldiers guard refugees at a camp outside El Fashir, where a rebellion against the government last year led to the aerial bombardment of villages.
(Marcus Gyger -- AP)
Stalked by Disease
With her 8-month-old malnourished twins at her breasts, Khadija Mohammed, 32, did not know how to help her children. Habiba was crying, and Hussein was passed out, unable to drink her milk. He has malaria, fevers at night, diarrhea and vomiting, his medical chart shows. His weight is half what it should be.
Mohammed came to the Mornay camp six months ago from her village in Ber Medina, 3 miles south. Her 6-year-old son and two brothers were killed.
"The nomads said, 'Lie down on the ground.' One pointed his gun toward me. Then he aimed his gun up and started firing," she said.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Arfe, who has a halo of curly braids, was hit in the buttocks but survived. "Now she sometimes gets fever, she sometimes gets headaches. She has trouble walking," her mother said.
Arfe tried to help her mother with the twins and struggled to help lift Habiba. Her mother shook her head no and lifted her daughter's frayed yellow dress to show nine stitches, a scar and a bullet lodged in Arfe's right buttock.
"We are hungry here," she said. "But where else can we go? I am afraid."
Others in the camp also said they would not leave. Mohammed Ishaq, the father of tiny Zohar, said he couldn't leave even if he wanted to, because his son is too ill to be moved.
"I am very much afraid for my son," he whispered, looking at his child's hand, each tiny finger clinging to his. "I can't love him. He is too sick."
In the noon heat, Sandrine Normand, an exhausted-looking physician with Doctors Without Borders, ran her hand over Zohar's mother's back. She then took the pink cup from her hands and gently, drop by drop, tried to make the baby swallow the water.
There will be many funerals here soon, Normand said, crouching down to sit with Zohar's parents.