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By Emad Eldin Ali, with contribution from Catherine Dennis
Life in Darfur can be harsh at the best of times, but during the rainy season it can be particularly challenging. Many families who have lost their homes because of the conflict are now living in makeshift mud huts and straw shelters.
Ensuring people have shelter, medicine and reserve food is also a challenge for the staff of ACT/Caritas. The June to September rainy season can make road transport difficult, so it’s important to prepare things well in advance.
In Mershing, South Darfur, staff have already delivered essential household items to hundreds of internally displaced families living in camps.
In Teigy camp, a large group of mostly women and children gather at sunrise at their community centre to receive items delivered by ACT/Caritas.
“I am happy because the household things from last time are now damaged”, said Fatima, who has been living in Teigy camp since 2004 with her three sons and four daughters. She points to the plastic sheet on the roof of her house she got two years ago and now broken by many months of exposure to the harsh sun and rain.
In May, over 4,700 families in nine camps in the Mershing area received the protective plastic sheets for their roofs. They also got sleeping mats, blankets and women’s clothes.
“This is for both newly displaced people as well as the local community to replace the items they received in previous years”, said Saad Abaker, Emergency Preparedness and Response Assistant for ACT/Caritas in Nyala.
The large scale distribution is challenging. ACT/Caritas receives essential support from the 22 members of a ‘Solidarity Committee’ of sheiks representing the internally displaced as well as leaders from the host community leaders in Mershing.
“We helped the displaced people with food, water, and clothes for three months before aid organizations arrived here,” said Adam Mohammed Altahir, a member of the Solidarity Committee and from the host community.
He said that the numbers of internally displaced people put pressure upon the local community and their limited resources and so is grateful to ACT/Caritas, who began work there in 2004 through national partner organisations, the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO).
“We will not be relaxed during the rains without these items, especially the plastic sheets because our houses are leaking” said Alam Eldin Abaker Ahmed, a 30 year old married man with three children living in Gadied camp, Mershing.
Good plastic sheeting is not easily available on the market or is too costly for most families to buy.
Alam Eldin said that many people would work on local farms to buy grass or plastic sheets to rehabilitate the roofs of their houses to prevent leaking.
“It would take me 45 days to finish work on three grass covers for food to sell at the market so that I am able to buy only one plastic sheet”, said Fatima, who earns a small income from local handicrafts.
A leaky roof can mean the spread of deadly disease. ACT/Caritas Health Coordinator Dr Omer Ibrahim says that the health clinic in Mershing is likely to receive more cases of illness during the rainy season.
“Malaria, diarrhoea and eye infections are usually the top three diseases prevalent during the period,” he said.
He explained that the nature of the area, where there are domestic animals living in close proximity to people and places which are fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes, combined with a damp environment are behind the spread of these diseases.
Mr Ibrahim said that extra drugs for treating acute watery diarrhoea, as well as other essential medical supplies have already been put in place in every clinic in case of an outbreak. In addition, a three month supply of food for nutrition centres has also been stockpiled in locations.
The ACT and Caritas networks provide support, resources and funds through the lead ACT member for the response, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), which is the legal representative within the country of Sudan.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International and Caritas Internationalis are working together in a joint response to the Darfur crisis. The ACT and Caritas networks provide support, resources and funds through the lead ACT member for the response, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), which is the legal representative within the country of Sudan.
ACT International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in 200 countries and territories.