Taxis With Tails: Aid Workers Saddle Up in Darfur

Darfur cart

Come rain or shine—and by donkey or horse—CRS’ Darfur staff get the job done. Photo by Rasheeda Ahmed Hassan/CRS

Rachel Hermes, Education Program Manager in West Darfur, sends in a field story. She is based in El Geneina, Darfur.

CRS works in a number of project sites in the northern corridor of West Darfur. To get to these remote villages, all humanitarian aid workers travel by U.N. helicopter. Logistical plans are made by radio before arrival, but things don’t always go as planned.

A few months back, one of our education field officers, Aziza Ahmed Ali conducted a daytrip to Seleia, a small town about 20 minutes away by air. She needed to monitor the construction of 24 permanent classrooms, two offices and two stores at three different schools spread throughout the town.

When the helicopter touched down on the local landing pad—a circle of stones in a sea of sandy ground—the rented vehicle that was supposed to pick Aziza up was nowhere in sight. Knowing a parent-teacher association (PTA) and a construction contractor were waiting for her, she ‘hailed’ a donkey—a common form of transport in many rural African communities. Aziza then proceeded to conduct her visits by donkey throughout the day, much to the delight and surprise of the community.

This past week, Aziza and I joined another education colleague, Rasheeda Ahmed Hassan, to confirm the completion of the school construction projects and meet with the PTA at each school. Once again, no transport was available when we landed, but we were able to hail a horse-drawn cart. We traveled to the three schools, completed our work, and made it back in time for the helicopter ride home.

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