Camel caravan aids isolated tribesmen in drought-affected Sudan
"This food has given us another chance", a nomad of the Sudanhs Haddendawa tribe said. "But when it runs out, I don't know what we shall do."
He lives in the rugged and inaccessible Ekidi Hills region, about 200 kilometres south-west of Port Sudan, and was talking to a member of UNICEF's unusual "camel caraven", which went to the area in late March 1985 to assess the condition of the isolated tribesmen and supply them with urgent assistance.
UNICEF staff used 20 camels in its three-day mission. The team afterwards concluded that camel transport was a viable way of supplying aid to isolated communities, and more expeditions are planned.
At one stop, caravan members distributed relief goods to five families camping out near the wells of the Bel Utr settlement.
Each family received one sack of wheat, a tin of edible fat and some dried milk--enough food, according to UNICEF estimates, for a family of five for a month. Each also received two blankets.
Thirteen families were supposed to be living in the area. "Can't you give us food for the people who aren't here?" asked one nomad. Expedition members explained reluctantly that the policy was to distribute goods only to families present.
One tribesman apologetically told expedition members on their arrival at the settlement "We have no milk to offer you. The goats give us hardly any now. This used to be a rich area for grazing. Many of our animals have died in the past three years. If things don't improve we shall have to move soon."
The Haddendawa tribesmen have always led lives of extreme hardship, UNICEF representatives reported. Guiding their flocks of sheep, goats, and camel herds over the high passes of mountains, family groups may be separated from the rest of the tribe for most of the year. Lack of rain over the last five years, however, has brought the tribe to the very edge of extinction.
Hillsides once rich with grass and trees have turned into sterile wasteland and are littered with the carcasses of dead livestock. Thousands of nomads have fled to the shanty-towns of urban centres such as Port Sudan. Others have remained behind to sit out what has become the worst drought in memory, settling around remote wells in the highlands, spending their days searching for grazing areas for their remaining animals. …