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Darfur: getting ready for the rainy season

06-07-2007 Feature

In Darfur, assisting people in rural areas before the rainy season starts involves a huge effort which is complicated by the volatile security situation. In such a challenging environment, how well the ICRC operates depends greatly on timing, organization and maintaining contact with all sides to the conflict.

  ©Norwegian Red Cross /O. Saltbones/ sd-e-00303    
Northern Darfur, Sawani village. The ICRC distributes seeds in remote villages to improve the food supply    
  ©ICRC/V. Miranda/sd-e-00440    
North Darfur, west of Musbat. The ICRC provides veterinary services such as this animal vaccination campaign    
  ©ICRC/C. Goin    
Sudan, West Darfur, Al Geneina. ICRC engineers rehabilitating a well outside Al Geneina during the dry season.    

The first rains have started falling in some areas of Darfur, and they will increase in strength from July up to September. Therefore, a large humanitarian operation is taking place to deliver aid to villages in rural areas on time. One of the priorities is the distribution of seeds and tools in remote villages to enhance food security and prevent further displacement to camps.

“First of all, we have to prepare the land before the rain starts and once it begins, we will be able to cultivate millet, sorghum, tomatoes, watermelon and onion. This will help us and our families to have food when the rainy season finishes, and we will also sell some of the vegetables in the market to get extra income”, explains a farmer from Gueighin village in South Darfur.

A team of over one hundred ICRC staff in Khartoum and Darfur is working to coordinate the distribution of aid.

" The ICRC assists vulnerable people according to their needs. In Al Malam, in north Nyala, the ICRC has distributed seeds, tools and also food in order to help villagers devote themselves to farming and to benefit from the rainy season as much as they can. I would say it was a very good way to help people benefit from the rainy season, "   explains   Karrar Ismael El Kamil, an ICRC field Officer.

A total of 6,500 families whose main income derives from farming already received staple-crop and cash-crop seeds, food-protection rations and farming tools in North, South and West Darfur. " ICR C staff, drivers and mechanics are responsible for transporting and distributing the aid around Darfur ," says Karrar.

For pastoralist communities whose main source of income is livestock, the ICRC is providing veterinary services. For example, a vaccination campaign has taken place in Dar Al Salam, North Darfur and a training course has been held for community animal health workers in Al Daein, South Darfur. 

 Safe water running in rural areas  


Before the onset of the rainy season, the ICRC rehabilitated wells, water yards and hand pumps in various parts of Darfur. " At the end of the dry season, the level of the water table is at its lowest and it is therefore the best time of the year to deepen existing hand-dug wells. This will provide a greater volume of water for the community throughout the year when the rainy season comes, " explains Shahab Moeini ICRC water engineer in Nyala, South Darfur.

ICRC activities before the onset of the rainy season
  • 830 tons of aid was distributed to villages in North, South and West Darfur
  • 6,500 families received staple-crop and cash-crop seeds, food-protection rations and farming tools before the planting season
  • Essential items were distributed to more than 8,000 households in rural areas
  • 46 wells were upgraded
  • In Gereida camp, South Darfur, over 25,000 households received tarpaulins
  • The ICRC is rehabilitating two airstrips in Zalingei and Gereida to ensure planes can land
In addition, during the rainy season, the ICRC will coordinate training courses to operate, maintain and repair water hand pumps and water yards in villages. This will increase the local capacity of rural communities to maintain the water systems.

The start of the rainy season means an increase of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, amoebiasis and cholera, which primarily threaten children, pregnant women and the elderly. Malaria is also more frequent and targets the same vulnerable populations. The rainy season also coincides with a rise in respiratory infections. Illness makes children lose weight, and an increase in malnutrition cases is expected. ICRC-supported primary health care clinics and health staff are ready to increase medical services to the sick.

While responding to the imminent assistance needs of the people before the rains, ICRC keeps reminding all those involved in the conflict of their obligations to respect civilian lives and property. In its dialogue with all sides, it also constantly underlines the need for humanitarians to be able to access all those in need, even in remote locations.

" The ICRC knows how to deliver food, seeds and tools, medicine, pipes and equipment for water operations and maintenance in many different areas around Darfur. The challenge now is to reach those in need before the rainy season starts. How well logistics does the job translates into how well the ICRC can help those in need living in remote areas, " concluded John Rowland, ICRC se nior logistician. " Unfortunately, some areas remain out of reach for security reasons, meaning that some people cannot receive the aid they require, " he concluded.