Manna from heaven in Darfur
From Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent
Villagers in Western Darfur wait for the air drop.
Humanitarian aid reaches an isolated village in Sudan.
Aid workers attend to seriously malnourished children in Darfur.
Some aid is reaching refugees in Darfur, but not nearly enough.
HABILA, Western Darfur (CNN) -- A little boy waits as though expecting manna from heaven -- which is what this might just as well be.
Sacks of Sudanese sorghum, U.S. wheat, Candian split peas and pulses are falling from the sky, providing the villagers of Habila their first food aid in three months.
In wave after wave, 414 tons of food have been delivered recently. It's still just a drop in the desert, but a much needed one.
"Trying to get aid into Western Darfur is like trying to squeeze a watermelon through a keyhole because of the infrastructure, the size of the airport and the rainy season," says Peter Smerdon, spokesman the U.N.'s World Food Programme.
Because of the rains, the village of Habila is completely cut off. There's not an inch of paved road, and dirt tracks are now muddy gulleys.
Despite the fresh grown grass, from the air one can see evidence of the war that has burned the straw roofs of huts, destroyed hundreds of villages and left more than 2 million people across Darfur entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.
International relief workers are trying to save lives in a desperate battle against malnutrition. So far it's struck at least 20 percent of the children.
Late planning for this emergency and a slow response from donor countries mean the United Nations is now making these expensive and inefficient air drops as a last resort.
It looks impressive, but it only amounts to a fraction of these people's monthly needs -- and the violence continues.
The United Nations says the Sudanese government has resumed bombing raids on rebels in south Darfur. It also says villagers are still being attacked by Janjaweed militias.
Habib Makhtoum, the vice governor of western Darfur, denies that. He also denies reports the government is forcibly trying to move people out of camps back to their destroyed villages.
"There is no violence here, and no compulsory repatriation," Makhtoum says. "On the contrary, people ask us to help them go back. In fact, most people tell us they won't go back home until there's proper security."
In the meantime, this is their fate: A desperate rush to retrieve whatever aid comes their way. The men are sent out to haul it back for distribution, and women sweep and save every last grain from sacks that explode on impact.
Each family treasures the strict rations that are carefully doled out. After all, they don't know when they'll get their their next delivery.