Cheering About Water in Darfur

Darfur water

The impact of this water access is enormous, particularly for displaced women and children who used to spend hours each day waiting in line to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing. Photo by CRS staff

It’s always hard to return to Darfur. You wish that there will finally be peace and that families will have been able to go home.

But last week I returned to a camp I had visited a year before, located right in the center of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state where CRS operates. At that time, 850 families had just begun moving out of an extremely crowded school they were living in where cooking fires were causing regular scares and injuries. CRS was helping these families build temporary shelters using poles and mats made by community members.

Now the families live in line after line of grass-thatch huts, with each separated by a grass-thatch wall and each with a simple pit latrine. The garbage that used to swirl among the shelters has been cleaned up, with CRS training camp residents to dispose of garbage in pits dug every few yards. Residents have also been trained in clean water storage, healthy food preparation, and sanitary use of latrines.

Best yet, there are no long, snaking lines of plastic water jugs leading up to every tap. After months of coordination with the government’s Forestry Department and Water and Environmental Sanitation authority, CRS drilled two new bore holes, laid more than one mile of pipes, and installed three 50,000-liter tanks. These tanks now provide water twice a day to around 7,000 Darfuris in need in El Geneina. The impact of this water access is enormous, particularly for displaced women and children who used to spend hours each day waiting in line to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing.

We asked the women at one set of taps if they now have enough water. “It’s overflowing,” the water point caretaker said, as women next to her filled each of their containers in just a minute or two.

“I remember when everyone had to wait and wait, and now they’re not,” adds Derek Kyambadde, CRS’ water and sanitation program manager in West Darfur. Then he lets out a whoop, pumping a fist in the air.

This progress is great to see, and I’m proud of CRS for the work we are doing. But it will only truly be great when the temporary shelters are torn down and these displaced families are back living safely in their villages.

Reported by Debbie DeVoe, CRS’ regional information officer for Eastern and Southern Africa

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