Issa Abdala (left), water-pump operator, and Abdala Abushamar (right), water and sanitation committee member, check on crops at the model farm beside the Maali Dargoub Water Yard. Photo by Hider Issa
A rehabilitated water yard brings more than just clean water to communities in East Darfur
By Cleopas Ochieng*
Khadija Abdelrahman, a mother of five, is among more than 5,600 villagers of Maali Dargoub, in East Darfur State, Sudan, who are benefiting from clean, safe water at the local water yard that was recently rehabilitated by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
“The cleanliness at this water point has improved. The separation of human and animal water collection points has made the water quality much better, and I believe the water we are now consuming is safe,” Abdelrahman says.
Before rehabilitation, the water drawn at the yard was often contaminated because of the prevalence around the collection points of animal feces and urine, and the flies they attracted. The hooves of oxen, camels, and other animals also damaged the ground, creating additional safety problems.
With funding support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), UMCOR built new tap stands, overhauled the pipeline that feeds the taps, repaired the elevated storage tanks, and replaced the poorly functioning generator, among other improvements.
“The old generator had constant defects, and spare parts were not readily available,” says Edam Mohamed, supervisor of UMCOR’s water and sanitation projects in Sudan. “Even when the generator worked, it couldn’t pump more than two hours without overheating. People had to wait for it to cool down before it would start pumping again.”
“Sometimes the old generator wouldn’t work for up to four days,” reports Halima, another resident of Maali Dargoub. “We’d have to collect water at the Dafag water yard in Yassin Locality, a six-hour walk. When we got there, we might have to wait another two hours for a chance to draw water because of the long queue.”
Mohamed says the new generator at the Maali Dargoub water yard has increased pumping time to 12 hours a day.
“This has really made our lives easier,” says Halima, who now waits only about 20 minutes for her turn at the tap. Thanks to the accessibility of the water, conflicts around the scarce resource also have diminished, she says.
Improved hygiene — and nutrition
|Women in Maali Dargoub draw water from a dedicated tap stand in UMCOR-rehabilitated water yard. Photo by Hider Issa
Another benefit of the UMCOR project, Halima says, is that general hygiene in the community has improved.
“Besides clean water, we also have community hygiene promoters, who are working with UMCOR. They teach us good hygiene practices, and cleanliness and personal hygiene in our homes have greatly improved. We boil our drinking water, wash our hands regularly with soap, and keep ourselves, our children, and our surroundings clean,” she says.
The Maali Dargoub community is taking good care of its rehabilitated water yard, and, with help from UMCOR, has created a community water and sanitation committee to watch over it and encourage the community to maintain it.
Issa Abdala, the water-pump operator, and Abdala Abushamar, a member of the water and sanitation committee, found another way to make the water yard productive. They are using water from the soak-pit drainages of the taps used by humans to cultivate summer vegetables, such as okra and cucumbers. These vegetables are scarce in the dry season, January to June.
“We can use the money we get from the sale of the vegetables at the water yard for small repairs like purchasing new taps to replace faulty or leaking ones,” says Abdala.
One of the most important benefits for the users of the water yard is safety. In East Darfur State, as elsewhere, the burden for fetching water is most keenly felt by women and girls, who often have to travel long distances to collect water. It is an exhausting task — and a dangerous one, as they are subject to physical attack on the way to or from the water point.
Humanitarian guidelines require that a water source be located not more than 500 meters (about 547 yards) from a village or other human settlement to ensure both accessibility and the safety of the users. The renovated Maali Dargoub water yard provides both, and assures the community of a steady, uninterrupted water supply.
“We are very grateful to UMCOR,” says Khadija Abdelrahman.
*Cleopas Ochieng is the manager of UMCOR’s water, sanitation, and hygiene program in Sudan.