Stranded and struggling eight miles from water


August 11, 2011

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    Erin Gray/Mercy Corps  </span>
    These children are a five-hour walk from the nearest water source. Photo: Erin Gray/Mercy Corps

These are the children of Qaraa. Covered in dust, thin and dazed, they are on the brink.

They and their families were once nomads, travelling with their animals from place to place. But two months ago they stopped where they found themselves, eight miles from the nearest water point on a dusty roadside, because they couldn’t continue any longer.

The last of their cattle and camels had died. They were too weak to continue and simply had no place else to go. They stopped out of desperation, abandoning the only life they knew, with no means to provide for themselves and no alternative.

They have no way to get water. They have barely any food. The 50 families have survived for the last few weeks by selling the few goats they had left. This has bought them meagre supplies of maize and a little rice, but that’s running out fast. Each family has had scarcely one 10 litre jerry can of water to last them two days at a time. When families have 10 people on average, that’s not nearly enough to stay alive.

One of the community elders told me: “It takes five hours to walk to the nearest water. We cannot carry water that far ourselves now, and the last of our donkeys is also too weak to carry any. We do not have anything left, and we don’t know what to do. Our children are so thin. They are coughing all the time and we don’t know why.”

It’s communities like these who need our help most. Without it, they may not survive much longer.