I’ve sometimes heard Darfur described as the first climate change conflict. It broadly means that people started fighting each other because in these sparsely populated Sahara hinterlands, there is not enough water or pasture for animals. Although this explanation glosses over some of the fundamentals of the political situation in Darfur, the challenges of managing resources in eastern Chad and Darfur remain.
In Bahay camp for Darfur refugees in the north east of Chad, not only is the sun like a raging tyrant in the sky, belching scorching flames onto its earthly victims, sending them screaming for cover, uselessly flapping their arms about their heads for protection, but water (or lack of it) is on everyone’s mind.
All of the water for the refugees comes from the partly man-made Lake Kariari, which at the peak of the dry season in early June is down to a pathetic slimy-green trickle. Luminescent algae carpets the vast basin of the dried-out lake, and three lonely pumps dot the cracked land all the way back to the treatment station. Here the water is filtered and tested before being pumped to the camp.
Each pump is powered by diesel. The fuel is driven in by truck from N’Djamena, more than 1000 kilometres away. Despite Chad having entered the elite gang of oil-producing nations, all of its domestic fuel needs are sourced from outside the country. The pumping system uses one hundred litres of fuel a day.