15 April 2011 - In the small village of Goli north of Abyei town, a group of children and village elders are huddled around a water pump a few metres back from the dirt road.
They are eagerly awaiting the first drops of water to appear after its absence for over a year.
With muted fanfare, the reward of over six hours’ hard labour in the searing sun then gurgles and spurts into being, as cool water drawn from over 40 metres below the surface splashes onto the parched ground.
The regeneration of this and another water pump two kilometres west of the road was coordinated by UNMIS Civil Affairs unit in Abyei as part of its collaboration with water and sanitation partners to have broken hand-pumps in the Misseriya areas of northern Abyei repaired.
The work has been a top priority of UNMIS Abyei Head of Office, and the mission’s senior management in Khartoum.
Rebecca Dobbins, Civil Affairs Officer in Abyei, says they targeted the work in the village, which lies some 23 kilometres north of Abyei town, for good reason.
“Currently, Goli is a key village along the Misseriya migration route,” she says, standing next to a group of technicians and workers carrying out the repairs. “Providing water in an environment such as this can potentially contribute and play a role in stabilizing and staving off conflict in the Abyei area.”
In previous years when works needed to be carried out, technicians from the Abyei Area Administration had undertaken the repairs.
But following recent fighting in Todach and Makir just a few kilometres back down the road towards Abyei, they have been unwilling or unable to travel to Misseriya areas this migration season due to security concerns.
In conjunction with Save the Children Sweden, which provided technicians for the repair work and travelled up from Agok, south of Abyei, Civil Affairs were able to deliver on their promise to the Misseriya that they would again have fresh, potable water.
At a meeting two days earlier, Chief Abdullah Hassan Asheen and other village elders had guaranteed the safety of the workers travelling up from Agok to Misseriya areas.
“Southerners are not our enemies here,” he said, sitting in the shade of a thatched structure surrounded by people from the village.
“There are a lot of Dinka staying with us here,” said the chief. “Our problem is not with southerners. Goli is a shared village.”