Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The rains and floods in Darfur now seem to have made the news headlines (albeit the small ones) - and I still can't make up my mind as to whether I should love or hate this season.

The scenery, particularly in the more fertile regions of Darfur, is lush and gorgeous - and many people I speak to are ecstatic that this year has brought them 'good rains'.

Even though a lot of people are still stuck in their camps, they are trying to plant inside compounds and on the outskirts of town. Some are even visiting their fields during the day or - in areas that are not quite as dangerous - several days each month. There is a general feeling that this year's harvest (though marred by the extreme limitation of movement) might be a good one.

The children are just as enthusiastic about the season as the adults, even if this might have more to do with the fact that they can splash around in puddles and bathe in the wadis once the clouds and storms have cleared.

The flipside of the coin is that there are lots of diseases festering away in those puddles, and the children who've managed to catch diarrhea or malaria are already looking decidedly less cheerful. While few malnourished babies in Darfur look quite as alarming as those I've seen in pictures from places like Niger, they are still a miserable and haunting sight.

Every location has its own sad tales and horror stories of toddlers, kids, even adults (including an AU soldier in West Darfur) being swept away by the raging rivers, and floods in low-lying areas have caused some houses to collapse. It's not easy battling the elements when you're already running low on life's bare necessities.

There are many striking things about the people of Darfur, but the one that continues to amaze me most is the fact that they just get on with it all while sit around to dwell on random thoughts like these. "It's life," they shrug. "Now when do you think we'll get some more food and plastic sheets? We don't have time to wait around all day."

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