Helping to Fill Aid Gaps in West Darfur

With the recent expulsion of aid agencies from Sudan, Catholic Relief Services is working closely with the United Nations, government and local authorities, and donors to help address growing gaps in humanitarian aid.

Over the past three months, we’ve started activities in two new areas for CRS—Habila and Mukjar—south of our main operational hub in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state. Partnering with the World Food Program, we’re delivering emergency rations to displaced people and distributing essential household items such as plastic sheeting and water cans. We are also undertaking sanitation and hygiene initiatives to help prevent disease spread and improve overall community health.

Darfur camp

CRS has been working in West Darfur since May 2004. This is a picture of a scene from an El Geneina camp for internally displaced people. Photo by Ross Tomlinson/CRS

I spent the last two weeks in Habila, a town now hosting more than 13,000 people displaced by the six-year-old conflict. Rural villagers who moved to Habila for safety have built grass huts around the edges of the town. Since the departure of a key aid agency in this area, we’ve stepped in to support basic sanitation activities for these residents.

CRS is helping families to build simple pit latrines and is working with civic authorities to organize better disposal of solid waste. We’re distributing soap and teaching community members about the importance of hand-washing, proper water storage and trash disposal to protect their health. We’re also setting up garbage collection points that are cleared each week by residents who haul the trash by tractor and donkey-drawn carts to a solid waste pit outside of town.

While good sanitation and hygiene may not be the first things that come to mind when thinking about the crisis in Darfur, they are critical to healthy communities. We’re thankful we’ve been able to help fill these gaps before the rainy season starts in just a few weeks. Additional resources will be necessary though to continue providing these essential sanitary services.

Reported by Ross Tomlinson, CRS’ Emergency Technical Advisor for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion

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