During the many trips that I have taken into Sudan, I don’t remember spending much time looking out of the window. On this flight, the in-flight entertainment system was not working, and so after reading, I spent a lot of time looking out of the window, and thinking about the work we have to do in the next couple of months.
I remember reading (not sure where) that >95% of the population of Sudan & Egypt live on <5% of the land… and not surprisingly that land is the thin green ribbon that borders the mighty River Nile.
Flying from Istanbul to Khartoum, we flew over Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan. We flew (more or less) in a straight line along the Nile. At night, that ribbon of lights was easy to track as it meandered underneath us. Sometimes disappearing over the horizon as the river traces the “Great Bend”, and sometimes shining brightly below.
Everything else was inky blackness, only the stars gave a clue where the earth ended and the sky began. All of that life (humans, animals & plants) beneath us, all of it dependant on the fertile waters of the Nile. I tried to take some photos, but they didn’t turn out.
Something that we struggle to explain is how dependent Sudanese people are on the Nile, and how frequently they must interact with it. Islam requires that people pray five times every day, before they pray they must wash. Washing takes place either in the Nile, or with water collected from the Nile earlier. With that frequency of exposure, comes increased risk.
That is the risk that we are working to reduce. We believe that everyone has the right to safely access water, and we believe that everyone has the right to enjoy the water safely. The scale of the problem is massive, so is the scale of our ambitions. That scale was particularly visually apparent to me during that flight, in a way that it hasn’t been before.
This forthcoming work is the most ambitious we have ever planned. Building on the success of our partnership with the Ministry of Education, we are developing a long-term plan with the Ministry of Civil Defence, and launching an “Aquatic Survival” project in partnership with the Ministry of Social Welfare & UNICEF to target the South-Sudanese refugees in the camps near Kosti. More on all of that work in future blog posts.