THE old woman sat cross-legged on a gold and black rug, an attempt to make the tent in the middle of the barren wilderness where she and her family had ended up seem a little bit more like home.
"Gaddafi came to me. I told him: 'We are your neighbours, but we get nothing. Your revolution has been going on for 20 years but we have no electricity, no water'," Malez Mohammed (84) recalled. "At the time he gave us work, he built us roads. But now he has become mad; his dogs came to the village, they started killing. That is why we had to flee from our houses."
More than 300 people are camped around them, having abandoned their village to escape the brutal strife of this civil war. There is no getting away from the privations they face as refugees in their own country -- the hardship set to continue, they think, until the conflict ends.
"There is no water, no electricity, we have little food." Ms Mohammed shook her head. "Many children are sick, we don't know where to take them."
While the world's focus has been on the military campaign and diplomatic manoeuvrings of the conflict, an acute humanitarian crisis has unfolded with seemingly little being done by the international community.
The UN's World Food Programme has started distributing aid, but almost all its foreign staff are stationed in Benghazi, due to the lack of safety away from the capital of the rebel government.
Yet it is the frontline areas that are, inevitably, the worst affected. The residents of Sauhat were forced to move after missiles flew over their homes and young men from the community were killed and injured. Gaddafi's troops cut the electricity lines for the area, and the water supply dried up after the pumping machine was looted.
The villagers had moved as swiftly as they could with their sheep and camels; their livelihood. Yet their new "home", in a parched landscape, offers little grazing or water. No fodder is available and the herds are being slaughtered to provide the occasional meals of meat to go with the diet of bread and a few vegetables.
The opposition's provisional government needs to prove to its Western sponsors that it can look after the people within what it claims as its jurisdiction, and officials in Benghazi maintain that food and other essential items are being sent to those in need. But at the main distribution centre in Ajdabiya, the only other city left in the revolutionaries' hands, there is never enough. Saleh Mohammed, a policeman working as a volunteer, said: "We have hundreds of people queuing. We give them all we have, but at the end we have to turn them away. What can we do?"
Prices have been kept low in the very few shops open in the city and there have been no attempts at profiteering. But in a country where the overwhelming proportion of the working population were state employees, most people have not received salaries for months.
Sauhat is just 25km from Ajdabiya, but with the city changing hands between the rebels and the regime four times in the last seven weeks, aid has been in short supply.
Mohammed Aregeh, the headman, said: "Now we are even further away and we have to bring everything, including water, across the land. We do not want to go back to our village because it is still not safe, so we have to stay here.
"But the Gaddafi men have been pushed back to Brega and there is now the opportunity for the people in Benghazi to send us more food. They are sending weapons on the road every day so perhaps they can send food as well."
The children at the camp do not have schools to go to. They had been shut by the provisional government because of an alleged threat of pupils being turned into "human shields" by regime "fifth columnists".
Ahmed Ibadullah (17) wants to join the rebels.
"I tried to get to the front but at the moment they are stopping anyone without a gun going forward. But I will get a gun and I will join them. What is the point of living like this? It is better to die fighting." (© Independent News Service)