Sudan: Drought exacerbates crisis in South Darfur

By Eman Musa El Tigany and Kun Li

FINNA VILLAGE, Darfur, 25 July 2005 - In this small village, a drop of water is worth its weight in gold. Mu Elnaso, a mother of five, knows it all too well.

"It takes me more than six hours to fetch water. I brought three of my children so they can wash once a week," she said, waiting in queue at a well to get water. "I will bring them again next week, because I can't take enough water home. It's a long day under the sun, and it's especially hard for my children."

Mu Elnaso lives in a camp near Finna for people forced to flee their homes as a result of Darfur's ongoing conflict. She took refuge in the camp after her home was destroyed by members of an armed militia.

Now, Mu Elnaso, the other people in the camp and the residents of the village have to cope with a water shortage. Severe drought has left 120 wells in Finna and nearby villages barely functional - stretched to their last drops to meet the needs of a total population of more than 31,000.

Wells and water kits

Khadiga is a resident of Finna Village. She lines up with everyone else to get water. "I am here since nine o'clock and I haven't even filled one jerry can yet," she said. "I walked for one and a half hours, and I can't do anything else today because I spend the whole day here. Now I'm feeling tired and hungry waiting in this queue."

To help alleviate the water shortage, UNICEF and its partners, including Oxfam, are digging or repairing 30 wells in Finna and two nearby villages. UNICEF has also distributed 'water kits' in the Finna region, as a critical hygiene measure.

"The kits provide chlorination tablets, water containers, and soap," said UNICEF's Chief of Water, Environment and Sanitation, Vanessa Tobin. "We know that just simple hand washing could reduce the chance of diarrhoeal diseases by up to 40 per cent."