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Sudan: distribution in Garsila, Darfur

10-09-2004 Feature

The ICRC is expanding its operations in Sudan's Darfur region, where hundreds of thousands of people need help. The reality of relief operations, especially in such difficult terrain, is that despite best efforts, distributions can be painfully slow. ICRC photographer Thierry Gassmann sent this snapshot of a day in the field.

  The convoy leaves for Garsila: the weather and the roads were to get a lot worse...    
© ICRC/T. Gassmann/    
  Garsila, Darfur: Hussni, the ICRC's man on the spot, with one of the beneficiaries.    
© ICRC/T. Gassmann/    
  Garsila, Darfur: ICRC and Sudanese Red Crescent workers carrying out the distribution    
© ICRC/T. Gassmann/    
  Garsila, Darfur: ICRC working with local leaders to ensure the smooth distribution of relief goods    
© ICRC/T. Gassmann/    


It's already 10 a.m. on Thursday morning when the convoy of five trucks, along with three smaller ICRC vehicles and one from the Sudanese Red Crescent, head off for Garsila along the road from Zalingei. The track is in poor shape and the rains, which have just begun, transform parts of it into a quagmire. In the afternoon two of the trucks get stuck and an hour is spent getting them out of the mud.

Altogether it takes seven hours of determined driving to reach our destination. We go straight to the warehouse, rented a few days earlier for the operation; we have 16,000 blankets, 5,300 kangas (textile used for women's clothing) and 28,000 bars of soap to be distributed.

The following day, after the trucks are unloaded, our colleagues Hussni Jarrar and Giorgios Mitsios contact the local authorities to ensure that the distributions go ahead in an orderly way. There is a big meeting with the elders, representing people whose villages have been destroyed; the lists of beneficiary families, drawn up some weeks before, are verified.

On Saturday, the first day of a distribution that's expected to last four or five days, the Red Crescent volunteers set up the posts and cords that mark the distribution lines. The warehouse is ideally placed, between the market place and the mosque.

Towards 9.30 am everything is ready. The area is full of people; men and women, representing their families, wait patiently, some sitting on the ground.

The beneficiaries are called by name and proceed to the SRC volunteers, receive their allocation of three blankets, two kangas (textile used for women's clothi ng), and five pieces of soap; they quickly head back to their temporary quarters north of the town. The women are delighted with their kangas and thank us with a cheery " Shoukran! "

At the beginning of the afternoon the heat is unbearable, the sky almost black. A few heavy drops start to fall.... suddenly the clouds open and the crowd scatters to find shelter. About an hour later the downpour lets up; Giorgios and Hussni decide to continue the distribution inside the warehouse, as people start to return.

By 6 p.m. more than 960 families have received their due. The warehouse is securely padlocked and the volunteers go off for a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow it will start all over again...

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