Children splashing water from a newly-repaired hand pump as ICRC staff and SRCS volunteers look on. Photo: Sadiq Elbushra / ICRC
Mellit locality is a flat and beautiful town dominated by green vegetation. It is so beautiful that a poem was composed by the great Sudanese poet, Mohammed Saeed Al Abasi, to capture its wonderful ambience. Even today, this poem is recited by all high school students across Sudan.
Lying 90 kilometres north of Al Fashir, in North Darfur, Mellit is one of the areas affected by the conflict in Darfur and hosts an IDP community with whom it shares its meagre water resources. Since it is not fed by any large mass of water, its farming community depend on rainfall for agriculture. Indeed, these farmers also become pastoralists in the dry season, when it becomes incumbent on them to lead their animals to greener pastures in search of water.
Whenever total rainfall was insufficient, residents of various parts of Mellit often experienced acute water shortage. The increasing insufficiency of rainfall over the years resulted in hand pumps being erected in the town to provide clean and regular water supply for 7,000 people over the population normally living in the area. However, when these facilities fell into disrepair for several years, the population found themselves in dire straits and had to start patronising water vendors, paying 90 SDGs ($2) for a daily supply of water on normal days, and 120 SDGs ($2.70) for the same supply in the dry season.
No more bills from water brokers...we will shred them forever! - Abuzaid
To redress this acute problem and significantly reduce the exposure of the population to water-borne diseases, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)—which had been absent from field operations over the period the people of Mellit experienced water shortages—initiated a programme to urgently repair and rehabilitate water sources in areas that had been affected by armed conflict in Darfur. Together with volunteers of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS), 14 broken hand pumps were identified and successfully rehabilitated in different districts of Mellit under this programme.
There was palpable joy in the air when the ICRC and SRCS teams finally concluded repairs of all hand pumps and made them available for public use once again.
"We don't have to pay 120 SDGs per day anymore to get water," said Abuzaid excitedly. He is a community leader and representative of Mellit's Western District.
Soon, children began to troop out towards the hand pumps in excitement. They could not hide the joy they felt at having clean water available virtually at their doorsteps now. Indeed, they do not have to struggle to get water anymore, as their houses and livestock will now have clean, sufficient water, which is available 24/7.
"No more bills from water brokers...we will shred them forever," Abuzaid concluded, as he moved on to join the celebration.
By August 2019, and through the work of the ICRC in constructing hand-dug wells, erecting and repairing hand pumps, rehabilitating water yards and training of community members and volunteers of the SRCS on repair/maintenance of these pumps, a total of 326,407 individuals had regained access to clean water in parts of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, out of which 149,200 are internally displaced persons (IDPs).