In Darfur, goats, donkeys, cows, and chickens are at the heart of family well-being. Animals carry firewood, haul water, and provide income, food, and transportation. However, frequent displacement and violence throughout the on-going civil conflict in Darfur has negatively affected the health of livestock, and thereby the well-being of families whose livelihoods depend on animals. Since the onset of the conflict, families have lost 60 to 90 percent of their livestock to theft, injury, killing, and lack of medical support. In partnership with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Ministry of Animal Resources, Relief International’s agriculture and livelihood programs in North Darfur have focused on providing access to basic veterinary care and sustainable farming techniques, and on educating local service providers.
Relief International (RI) is restoring livestock health through its support of 5 animal treatment centers that provide primary health care services and fodder distribution to an average of 3,000 animals every week. This number varies widely, as in October, November, and December the total number of animals treated across all centers totaled 5,263, 19,711 and 9,918, respectively. Run by RI-trained local staff, each clinic is managed by 3 Community Animal Workers and 1 Veterinary Assistant. Services include essential immunizations, treatment of disease, infection, and injury. With additional funding, RI will be able to transform each animal clinic from temporary shelters into durable structures that will be a resource for the community in years to come.
At the end of 2006, as part of RI’s larger livelihood activities, the organization conducted a 10-day animal health training to educate and raise awareness on critical livestock issues combined with additional hygiene education. Topics included primary healthcare, protection of humans against communicable diseases from animals, economic importance of animals, supplementary feeding of animals to increase egg and milk production, proper disposal of human and animal waste, environmental sanitation and hygiene, and diseases transmitted through water. A total of 3,013 participants attended the training with the highest attendee group being women, at 2,662.
In addition to providing healthcare and fodder distribution, RI’s agricultural activities also include its Extensionist program. The first of its kind in the region, RI’s Agricultural Extensionist (AE) program, with support from its partners in the Sudan Ministry of Agriculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Women’s Charity Society of Kabkabiya, provides training for 30 men and 30 women who serve as technical advisors to deliver community education on improved techniques that increase crop production and farmland sustainability in 14 rural villages. A very important aspect of this program is the inclusion of women AE’s, as this has altered their personal lives and achieved benefits for the community that go well beyond family food security and result in a new kind of moral support to war-affected families in Darfur.