Working to ease water conflicts in Darfur

News and Press Release
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by Mohamed Hilaly

GENEINA - Women in Darfur often walk a long way to collect water. NGOs are working to change that -- and reduce conflicts fuelled by water scarcity.

ollecting water was once an arduous prospect for Dehbaya Zakaria, who lives next to Krinding Camp in West Darfur. “I previously walked several kilometres to access water every day,” she told The Niles.

But her life, and those of hundreds of local women, have been eased by wells drilled on both sides of the camp. “The benefit of these wells and pumps covered not only the displaced and the surrounding areas, but also all nomadic transients,” another citizen said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Recent experience has shown how drought fuels conflict between the different groups in the region. Organisations and government agencies are working to provide water to the region.

Islamic Relief (IRW) is among the groups working to supply water in most parts of West Darfur, specifically in Geneina, Krinding and others, in addition to the IDP camps in eastern Geneina, namely, Krinding I, Krinding II and Seda.

Head of IRW Water Department Rashid Jamaa said his organisation secured wells, excavations, and hand pumps for thousands of citizens in camps and in Geneina, Krinding and other cities. “IRW has established about 300 hand pumps over the past years in all those areas,” Rashid said. Solar-powered pumps have been constructed in some areas to provide easy access to water, “specifically for women who find it difficult to operate hand pumps,” he explained.

IRW also worked to form “joint committees” to manage water wells shared between the displaced and hosting communities and herders and farmers in rural and pastoral areas. It has created such groups in Krinding, Mekshasha, Um Tojok, Tandosa and others.

Jacob Idris, Chief of Ameriya, near Krinding Camp, said the joint committees incorporating different local groups helped alleviate some tensions. Preserving stability in the camps and surrounding area “needs more water resources in different parts of the state,” he said.

The joint committees resemble traditional mechanisms to try to forge stability: Civil administrations stem from the Darfurian community and achieve reconciliation and coexistence. Previously, the mechanism contributed to the region’s cohesion -- and a lot of hopes are pinned on it now.

“This experience has succeeded in bringing the views of the displaced and the hosts closer,” said Director of IRW Office in West Darfur Ibrhima Chalari, referring to populations living near the camps, such as Ameriya and Um Dwayne in Eastern Geneina.

Chalari said they formed a committee for tribal reconciliations among all components “to avoid any disputes that can be created by these services and any sense of competition to get them […]. It has been a major cause for the absence of any disputes between herders and farmers in 2012.”

Observers are closely watching the developments in the region, especially as many NGOs are reducing their work in the area, given the long-lasting conflict.

But the region of Darfur remains one of the most poverty stricken in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced during a decade-long civil war.