News / Africa

Water Scarcity Root of Darfur Conflict

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Schlein

The conflict in Western Sudan's Darfur region erupted more than eight years ago.  It has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced an estimated two million people.  Disputes over scarce water and grazing land between black African farmers and Arab pastoralist communities triggered the war.  Lack of access to water remains one of the major drivers of the ongoing conflict in Darfur.   An international conference in Khartoum at the end of June will focus on the critical issue of water and how the equitable use and management of this limited resource can help build peace in this troubled region.

When people in developed countries want water, they turn on the tap.

When people in Darfur want water, they have to search far and wide for it.

A UN video shows women and children walking long distances through the arid desert to fetch water in Darfur.  They wait in lengthy lines at the communal well to fill their jerry cans with water for their drinking and washing needs.  This process is repeated every three or four days.

According to the United Nations, one person uses nearly 400 liters of water per day, in the world's wealthiest countries.  In Darfur, 400 liters of water is shared by 20 people.

Mohamed Yonis is Deputy Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur.

"Water is one of the main root causes of this conflict," said Yonis.  "There is a need to address this issue and we do believe that water will serve as an instrument for peace."  

The United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has been in Darfur for three and one half years.  Yonis says well managed and equitably distributed water resources can ensure sustainable peace for the people in Darfur.  

"Water we believe is life and we believe it could contribute to the initiatives that the UN is making in terms of trying to reach peace with the people of Darfur," added Yonis.  

The United Nations is mediating Sudan peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar. But, a political solution remains elusive.  The world body is hoping for better results from the Water Conference it is organizing jointly with the Government of Sudan at the end of the month.

The conference will seek $1.5 billion from donors to support 56 water projects over the next six years.  These projects will focus on rebuilding the water infrastructure devastated by conflict and neglect.  They will introduce new technologies and systems for managing water, preparing for drought and helping farmers adapt to climate change.

Robin Bovey, the Sudan Program Manager for the UN Environment Program, says providing water in the Sahel is difficult because there is not much of it.    He calls managing water resources a massive undertaking that cannot be done in isolation.  

"We are presently setting up drought committees in camps," said Bovey.  "There will be another drought.  I mean there will be droughts that occur again.  This is just something that happens on a cyclical basis.  But, where you have population shifts, you have to make sure that people are prepared."  

Nils Kastberg, the representative for the UN Children's Fund for Sudan, says getting access to that water requires peace.  And peace can best be achieved on the local level.

"If we put a well and that leads to different groups of people fighting over access to that water, than we are contributing to conflict," added Kastberg.  "If, instead, we can use the access to water as a way for establishing dialogue between different groups, so that through that dialogue we can provide, for instance, access to water, but at the same time get the dialogue going that is so needed, then we are constructing peace from the local level."

But, aid agencies agree these peace initiatives ultimately will lead nowhere without cooperation from the Sudanese government.  They are urging the government to provide services equally to all people in Darfur and to grant them freedom of movement so they can distribute essential relief and care.  

They believe the best prospects for peace lie with local communities, not with the Central government.  They say people are tired of fighting.  They want to trade their goods.  They want access to markets and water.  

And this, aid workers say, is prompting many communities to conclude their own peace agreements. If this process grows and spreads from village to village, they say, these local agreements could translate into a significant regional-wide peace for Darfur.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid