I sometimes forget which month we're in over here in Darfur - and that's not just the information overload and general confusion speaking, it's also down to the fact that it's pretty much always blisteringly hot and the scenery inside the towns and camps does not change too dramatically on a day-to-day basis.
Recently, however, even I have remembered that the winter is coming. It's not just that the hedgehogs have been disappearing (see my post from September 8) - it really has become distinctly chilly in the mornings over the past few weeks.
For me, this doesn't really mean a whole lot more than shorter showers (and longer shrieks of displeasure as the cold water hits my back) in the morning. But the Darfurians really are entering full winter mode. The guards that sit in front of my guest house huddle together in their little hut, faces obscured by enormous winter jackets, hoods, and scarves. Some of the little boys in the streets are wearing ski masks.
Even in the middle of the day, my Sudanese colleagues march around the camps in big woolen vests and coats - with an outside temperature of more than 30 degrees Celsius (I suppose the drop from 45 to 30 degrees is pretty significant, but to us non-desert dwelling folk, 30 degrees daytime temperature is still pretty sweltering).
While my Northern soul may not be particularly sympathetic towards the gradual change in climate just yet, it does remind me that the families living in Darfur's camps will soon be facing some new and uncomfortable challenges.
Particularly when I visit the new arrivals in the camps, I am vividly reminded of the fact that people are entirely exposed to the elements due to their displacement. Some of the families that have sought refuge in the camps from the last few months' militia attacks on their villages are still living in rickety little shelters constructed from merely a few small branches and pieces of thin cloth or fabric (often colourful sarongs - called 'tobes' in Sudan - that the women wear). Families crouch together in these makeshift huts with hardly any protection against the sun, wind or nighttime chill. Most don't even have mats to sleep on, and simply put their children to bed directly on top of the deep sand.
In meetings and reports with other aid agencies, I continue to hear and read that the public health situation and general condition of Darfur's displaced people is improving - and while I know this is true, I sometimes wonder if people outside of Sudan realise that this is entirely due to the agencies' non-stop efforts to stabilise the situation. The impact that the humanitarian work has had inside the camps is huge - but it remains fragile, with more than two million people entirely dependent on the international community for all of their basic needs.
And while I'm glad (and somewhat proud) that there are now less malnourished and sick men, women and children inside Darfur's camps, I still worry each day about the big and small events - whether it's the slow arrival of the winter, or a massive new wave of insecurity - that prove to me that Darfur is still only just hanging on by a thin piece of thread.
Tags: Sudan, Darfur, aid worker, winter