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No water, no hope: Tunisian villages struggle in drought’s grip

No water, no hope: Tunisian villages struggle in drought’s grip

No water, no hope: Tunisian villages struggle in drought’s grip

No water, no hope: Tunisian villages struggle in drought’s grip

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  • Tunisian villages have been facing drought for the fourth year.
  • Residents have no access to clean drinking water.
  • Residents demand support from the government.
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Ounissa Mazhoud, a villager from Uruguay, attaches two empty jerry cans on a donkey and carefully makes her way down a rough slope in the direction of the final water source in the area.

The nation in North Africa is experiencing its biggest water shortage in years as it enters its fourth year of drought.

Mazhoud wakes up every morning thinking about finding water, just like other women in the isolated community of Ouled Omar, 180 kilometers (110 miles) southwest of Tunis, the capital.

“We are the living dead…forgotten by everyone,” declared Mazhoud, 57, a native of one of the most fruitful regions in the past, famed for its Aleppo trees and wheat fields.

She declared, “We have no roads, no water, no aid, no decent housing, and we own nothing.” The nearest water source, she added, is a river that is a strenuous hour’s walk away.

As a result of working from dawn till nightfall to provide water for their families, she claimed that “our backs, heads, and knees hurt.”

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According to World Bank projections, the Middle East and North Africa region will experience less water scarcity by 2030, with an annual average of 500 cubic meters per person.

The World Resources Institute ranks Tunisia as the 33rd most water-stressed nation, while the country’s per capita water use has decreased to 450 cubic meters.

Despite the recent light rains, official statistics reveal that its dams, which are the main source of water for farming and drinking, are only 22% full.

There are currently about twenty abandoned dams, most of them in the driest part of the south.

Water rationing was implemented by Tunisian authorities in the spring of last year to restrict home use, especially in large cities.

However, the problem is far more pressing in isolated communities where cattle and vital agricultural are impacted by water scarcity.

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Mahmoud Mazhoud, Ounissa’s 65-year-old husband, stated that his town can no longer sustain livestock, so he had to sell half of his herd of cows to make ends meet for the remaining animals.

Twenty-two households share the one spring left in Ouled Omar.

They claim that although it produces just roughly 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water daily in total, it is unfit for human consumption.

A thirty-year-old stockbreeder named Ramzi Sebtaoui drives his family’s water supply, which is located in the city of

Maktar, about twenty kilometers away, every day.

“Two or three years ago, the situation was much better, with many natural sources of water that we could use for livestock,” he said.

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“Today, due to climate change and other factors, almost all sources have dried up, and the roads are destroyed.”

Residents of Ouled Omar trekked nearly 50 kilometers to Siliana last week to demonstrate outside governorate headquarters. They were seeking access to potable water and a paved road.

According to international news agency, Houda Mazhoud, a researcher who has spent years fighting for Ouled Omar’s access to clean water, “they don’t have a source of drinking water, not even taps.”

“As a result, they use a natural source. But with climate change, it’s starting to disappear.”

Residents claim that the village’s solitary route is dilapidated and hasn’t been paved in decades, which only serves to heighten their sense of loneliness.

A few villagers have felt pressured to relocate overseas or to cities.

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According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, some 300,000 of Tunisia’s 12 million residents do not have access to clean drinking water in their houses.

Djamila Mazhoud, 60, Ounissa’s relative, claimed her two children and son had all moved away in quest of better opportunities.

“We educated our children so that when we grow old, they take care of us, but they couldn’t,” she said.

“People are either unemployed or eaten by the fish in the sea,” she continued, referring to the prevalent term used to describe migrants who try the perilous sea journeys to reach Europe.

According to Djamila, entire families have already left the village.

She explained, saying, “Their houses remain empty,” that old people feel compelled to follow their sons and daughters.

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“Can an 80-year-old go to the river to get water?“

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