Sudan: Great need for water in Darfur

DanChurchAid continues to work in Darfur despite the worsening security situation. 72,000 people are being provided with access to clean water, latrines, and skills in good hygiene practices.

The situation in Sudan's Western Darfur province is worsening by the day. The UN states from January to April, 107,000 people have been displaced.

DanChurchAid has been working in Darfur since 2004 through Action by Churches together, ACT, and Caritas. So far the Darfur Emergency Response Operation has been able to continue.

"We have developed good local networks through our Sudanese partners so we have a feeling of what is going on. We do not solemnly depend on information from the UN," says Anne Masterson, outgoing director of

With funding from ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Office, ACT/Caritas is able to provide clean water, access to latrines and trainings in good hygiene practices for 72,000 people living in camps for displaced people in Zalingei, West Darfur, and in surroundings villages.

Drilling teams make bore holes and install water pumps, water tanks are set up where the water table is too low for boreholes, and old wells are being rehabilitated.

People are being provided with material for making basic latrines and in collaboration with the community, latrines are being constructed.

Big difference in access to water

Jerry cans are winding like a snake in the red sand in Hassa Hissa camp in Zalingei. Women in colourful toubs - the traditional clothing - are waiting patiently in the long water queue.

Simon Peter Odong, ACT/Caritas water engineer from Uganda and water and sanitation adviser in the ECHO funded program, says that there is a big difference in access to water in the camps and villages.

"It is difficult in Hassa Hissa camp. The water table is very low so there is no potential for hand dug wells. Many wells and boreholes dry out from April-June," says Odong, and he adds that the quality of the water is not good either.

He estimates that each person has about 4-5 liters of water per day. New arrivals in the camp, which is home to 42,000 people, constrains the scarce water sources further.

In Khamsadagaig - a smaller camp in Zalingei -the water situation is the opposite. Each person has more than 15 litres of water available per day.

Water is being used for multiple purposes; drinking, bathing, clothes washing, and cleaning.

Need of water in villages

Most humanitarian aid in Darfur is concentrated in the camps for displaced people but the need outside the camps - in the villages - is also great.

"In general the water situation is better in the camps than in the villages. In a village with 500-600 inhabitants there may only be one water pump," says Mr Odong.

The water and sanitation programme is reaching out to 20 villages around Zalingei, but due to the deteriorating security in some of the areas the work is on hold.

Gos Grab is one of the villages which is receiving assistance. 200 people live in the village. A boy passes by on his donkey carrying jerry cans. The boy left the village in the morning to fetch water. It is now past noon.

It takes approximately four hours to fetch water. But not for much longer; through the water and sanitation project, the community is being training in good hygiene practices, and a water pump will soon be installed in the village.

Training in good hygiene practices

Training in good hygiene practices is an important component in the program. In the camps volunteers are being trained to mobilise their community in preventing diseases through theatre, women groups and campaigns.

It's hard to find any garbage in the dusty streets of Hamidiya camp in Zalingei. The hygiene volunteers have obviously done a good job.

"The humanitarian organisations have really done a lot to advocate for the importance of good hygiene practices. People use the latrines and children's faeces are also being collected. People have improved a lot. Most of them did not know of latrines when they came to live in the camps," tells Mr Odong.

Cleaning and hand washing

Aisha is one of the volunteers who have received training;

"Before we took our children to the hospital when they had diarrhoea now we know why they get it and how to prevent it."

Cleaning of cooking utensils, correct storage of water and the importance of using soap and hand washing are among the messages in the hygiene training.

In the villages water committees are also being established with the responsibility to mobilise the rest of the community in taking care of the water sources - for instance by fencing the water pump so the animals don't drink from the same water as the villagers.

Water committees also mobilise people in good hygiene practices. In Zalingei health clubs have been established in the schools - in the camps and in the town - where children learn about hand washing and the importance of using latrines.