UNOCHA has reported that the daily amount of water needed by one person for basic needs (drinking, washing, cooking) is about 11.25 liters, give or take 3.75 liters, depending on the person’s physiology and the climate in which they live (1). Even though most of the inhabited part of Darfur is semidesert (with the drier portion moving further south thanks to climate change), we will assume an average daily need of 11.25 L, to keep from overestimating.
One liter of water weighs about 2.2 pounds, and so 11.25 L of water is about 24.75 pounds. So to meet basic daily water needs for one person you have to move about 24.75 pounds of water.
UNOCHA reports that the average household size in Darfur is six people (2). So now you have to move 148.5 pounds of water each day, unless you do not want to wash, or cook, or not drink enough. No reasonable person wants to do this unless it is for, say, the sake of keeping other family members alive, in which case not one but two or more persons are living on less water than they need.
So when you learn that the displaced people in Yassin, East Darfur must travel two hours to the nearest water source on foot because their carts were destroyed (3), you must keep in mind that they need to carry 148.5 pounds for one day’s water supply for a typical Darfur family. How much could you carry for that long a walk?
See, the thousand persons displaced in Yassin were driven from a village about seven miles away called Kweikai when it was burned down on March 31 by one of the sides in a tribal war (which is just one aspect of the current conflict in the region). As of April 20, six hundred of these persons do not even have shelter. And because their donkey carts were destroyed, they have to walk to get water from the nearest water source, two hours away.
That’s four and a half hours minimum you are not farming, studying, getting medical help, building a shelter or staying with a sick relative. And this further assumes that you will not be beaten, bombed, shot at, chased, robbed, raped and / or killed during your walk.
Many, many Darfuris have had to make such trips, or wait in lines for hours and hours to get to one of the few water pumps in their camp that still works.
And it must be emphasized that these persons, given peace and security, could farm, rebuild homes, villages, schools, local governments and communities. There are cases in which the parents of Darfuris newly arrived in America want to remain in Darfur because it is their home, war or no war. Many of the Darfuri refugees in Chad only want to go back to their land from which they were driven. Many Darfuris in the US revisit Darfur once they become US citizens, because it is their first home.
But war has prevented the chance for civilians to rebuild in Darfur for many years.
(1) OCHA Occasional Policy Briefing Series No. 4, Water Scarcity and Humanitarian Action: Key Emerging Trends and Challenges (see page four): https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/OCHA%20OPB%20Water%20%2011Nov10%20fnl.pdf
(2) UN Sudan: Key Facts and Figures for Sudan, with a Focus on Darfur (see the top chart on page one): http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/darfur_fact_sheet_v32.pdf
(3) UNOCHA: Sudan Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 17, April 20-26 2015 (see the section titled “Some 600 new IDPs living under trees in Yassin town, East Darfur,” pages one and two): http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-humanitarian-bulletin-issue-17-20-26-april-2015-enar