Jebel Climbing

The town of Mornei where I am now living is overlooked by a wonderful little mountain, or 'jebel' as they are known here. We climbed it on Friday (our day off here being a Muslim region) but did not get great views as it was quite cloudy. I'll have to try again next week. The jebel sits to the south of the town and rises abruptly from the otherwise flat sandy landscape. To the north and west are scrubby wastelands, and on the eastern side is the dry river bed or 'wadi'. In the village kids run and play and the place looks like a large healthy village.

Of course looks can be deceiving, and this village is in fact a camp which grew from 5000 residents to 75,000 refugees (or internally displaced peoples (IDP's) as they are now known) during the major Darfur violence of 2003 and 2004. Most people therefore have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, often loosing many members of their family in the process. Armed men still wander the streets, and rapes and looting are common outside the immediate area of the camp. One of the two people recently named as wanted for trial by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur lives in the next village.

The 'wastelands' outside of town used to support a large population, perhaps not with ease, but certainly if the weather cooperated an intricate network of small farms, nomadic animal herders and small village markets provided enough food and economic activity for everyone. Now with so many hundreds of villages burnt to the ground, the locals are forced to concentrate on a few towns and camps such as Mornay. The nomads can no longer roam as far as they need the markets for exchange of produce and goods as much as the villages. The social, agricultural and economic structure is gone. Resource use becomes concentrated on a small area and devastation results.

The situation in Darfur is pretty bad with no end in sight.

The Mornay operation run by MSF is winding down so that a new mission can be opened elsewhere in Darfur, and so my job is to make sure that the logistics and administration closure all happens smoothly, with five different sites currently occupied, and 117 staff. The clinic and the out patient department are very quiet now and so the Australian expat doctor Vid is finding it hard to fill in her day. Luckily for me though there is plenty to do with sorting and fixing and packing of materials to be returned to store, and sorting, filing or binning the pile of paper and junk that builds up in an office over the years. There are a number of other NGO's in Mornay now, along with the local Ministry of Health, that can provide the same care and facilities as MSF and so we are handing over to them at the end of May. I'll certainly be here till the beginning of June.

The kids are certainly striking here. Perhaps it is just the sheet number of them, or perhaps it is because they are so incredibly playful. There are various open areas in the centre of town and in the morning and evening there are always games of soccer or tag, often several games on one field all taking place simultaneously. I often end up with five or six kids hanging off me, all while I'm trying to concentrate on trying to score a goal between the piles of rocks and eight goal keepers. The woman in Mornay seem to do most of the work, carrying water, collecting firewood, cooking, looking after the kids, all in 40 degree heat and with a smile. The few men here seem to be usually seen around the market and sometimes riding through town.

There are no cars in town except for the few operated by the NGO's, and even then the cars cannot leave town or they are carjacked. There are however a lots of animals, though I guess mostly donkeys, but also a good number of goats, sheep and a few camels. The donkeys are certainly the noisiest and you just wouldn't believe how much racket a donkey can make at 2am just across the fence from the living compound.

The expat living compound is very nice, with individual tukuls (although we actually all have been sleeping outside as it is too hot inside), and a nicely set up living area where we eat and watch DVD's. There is a beautiful little black and white cat and her three kittens sharing the living area, and not only try to keep her feed but also the kittens are well cuddled in the evenings. There is a cook who provides meals of fresh salad, rice and meat stew, though sometimes popcorn and pancakes make an appearance. A cleaner keeps up with our sweaty dirty clothes (mostly white, well, off white, MSF t-shirts) and a friendly crew of watchmen welcome us home and take care of cleaning, filling and lighting the kerosene lamps when it gets dark.

So, that's the update for now. I am really enjoying my work here and certainly have had a burst of energy since leaving Bentiu. I'm looking forward in equal measures to the work of the next few weeks, and then whatever life brings along next when I fly out of Sudan back to Paris.

Righto, off to climb the jebel again.


Anonymous said…
good luck richie from paris !!!
Anonymous said…
good luck richie from paris !!!
Steve Pawson said…
Hey Rich,

Sounds like a sad but inspiring place at the same time. Good luck with the next phase of where ever it is you are heading...



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