Providing clean water and security to people in Darfur

CAFOD partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) have been working in Darfur for over 10 years, leading the enormous humanitarian response to the conflict. The aid agency has worked through challenging conditions to provide a life-line of essential aid and care through running health and nutrition clinics, providing clean water and sanitation, running schools, and supporting small-holder farming initiatives. These vital services reach more than one million people each year, making it one of the largest aid operations on the ground.

Nana Anto-Awuakye from our world news team recently visited Darfur to listen to some of the stories of life in the camps.

She met 26 year old Amina* who has lived in Khamsa Dagaig camp in Darfur’s Central Region since fleeing her own village ten years ago when fighting broke out.

Escaping the violence for the safety of Khamsa Dagaig camp

“It was October; all of us [villagers] were working hard to bring in the harvest. I was sleeping when I heard our village being attacked,” recalls Amina, her eyes staring steadfastly into the distance. “I didn’t know who was shooting at us or why, their faces were covered. First they came on camels and horses, then they came in heavy vehicles, and then they came on foot. There was so much screaming, people running, and fire everywhere. I was so afraid I just ran I didn’t even put my shoes on.” Many settlements across Darfur have been reduced to rings of ash – burnt and ruined because of the ongoing conflict –those that survive have little choice but to move from rural areas into camps.

The water standpipe: an amazing achievement

Amina’s two young sons skip in a zig-zag pattern in front of her, calling out to their friends. It’s the highlight of their day collecting water from the area standpipe. The presence of one standpipe in this area of the 20,000-strong camp might not seem like much, but for Amina and her neighbours it represents an amazing achievement. One of the great successes of NCA’s incredible ten-year, humanitarian programme in Darfur is how together with residents, the organisation brought water to the camp. “When we arrived at this camp water was a big problem” says Amina. “We had to walk to the valley to collect it, and this was dangerous, because we were threatened by nomads who would beat and attack us. “But we needed to fetch the water for our daily chores, so we had no choice but to leave the camp.”

To meet this clear need, camp residents formed water committees and with the support of NCA came up with an ambitious and life-saving plan of action: they would use modern technology – solar panels – to bring clean safe water to communities. Amina remembers seven years ago staring down the gaping hole of the newly dug well; she along with other women had come along to the well site with food for the men digging the foundations.

The solar panels provide the energy for the pump to draw up water, by using a very small amount of the power produced from the sun. Amina walks back, this time her jerry-can effortlessly balanced on her head, not a drop spilt, and she’s home safely in less than ten minutes effortlessly balanced on her head, not a drop spilt, and she’s home safely in less than ten minutes. It was the best day when we had our own water here in the camp. We still face many challenges after ten years of living here, but at least we don’t need to worry about fetching water. “Shukran – thank you.” *Name changed upon request

One in eight people supported by CAFOD are helped thanks to legacies. £750 could provide the materials and know-how to build wells and water tanks, and to install and lay pumps, water pipes and taps to provide clean, safe water to whole communities.

Posted on: August 6th, 2014

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