Water transforms the life of Zakiya, an internally displaced woman in Sudan

How a newly constructed water point in a camp is supporting an entire community in East Darfur

By Khamisa Mohamed
17 March 2021

Zakiya Ali is a single mother raising four small children in Elneem Internally Displaced Camp, East Darfur, one of the biggest camps with a population of 75,000. Resilient and creative Zakiya sells local dry okra, vegetables and onions to support her children.

To provide water for her family, Zakiya walked hours each day, back and forth to an open pond. The water was unsafe. This is a common reality for women in East Darfur. On average they spend 30 hours a week walking to collect water, bearing the adult responsibility of providing water for their families despite the blazing sun.

Every day, Zakiya carried 40 liters of water back to her home but it wasn’t enough.

“The task is difficult especially for women with young children,”

Zakiya recalls the difficult trips she endured.  

An almost daily task, in all sorts of weather conditions, the water collected for washing and cooking, had to be boiled before use. 

Last year, UNICEF with financial assistance from the Dutch Government, began working with Zakiya’s community to construct and rehabilitate water points and install a new generator Perkins of 60KWH.

world water day, water supply, internally displaced persons, Sudan, internally displaced camps, internal displacement, children, burden of water, clean and safe water
UNICEF Sudan/2021

It was like a dream for the people in the camp to see water running from a nearby water source. From all corners of the village, men, women and children ran immediately to the water points as if they had never seen water before. Zakiya watched in wonder as the generator was installed and the construction of the water sources completed. 

“Given the capacity of the generator, the elevated water tank fills up quickly, and now water is right here, and my family and I are much safer and healthier,” Zakiya exclaimed. With the simple addition of clean and safe water, Zakiya‘s life is transforming. 

Traditional attitudes towards girls have long kept them out of school, the burden of domestic chores often falls to girls and women and essential tasks like carrying water for the household take precedence over education. 

world water day, water supply, internally displaced persons, Sudan, internally displaced camps, internal displacement, children, burden of water, clean and safe water
UNICEF Sudan/2021

We no longer have to walk far to fetch water says Amina, 10 years, standing at the water pump. “Our parents will accept sending more girls to school.”

We can already say that since the water is available, the school attendance among girls has improved.  Neighbouring schools have also benefitted from this initiative, improving the health of the pupils. 

Aisha Yusuf a mother of five children in the internally displaced camp also shares, “We are fortunate,” as she smiles broadly. “Having safe water has a tremendous impact on daily life.”
 
With such water systems in place, people no longer have to spend hours fetching water from polluted open ponds near their homes.  Girls can go to school, and women able to care for their families and pursue education and employment. 

The constant water supply has supported hand washing among households during the Covid-19 pandemic, a practice critical to control the spread of the disease.
 
Thanks to the generous support of the Dutch Government, UNICEF has accelerated water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programmes in Elneem Internally Displaced Camp, East Darfur and at the neighboring schools, engaging with local government bodies to support local water supply systems.