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Clean drinking water for refugees

A civil war has been underway in South Sudan since December 2013; its brutal ferocity has triggered a humanitarian crisis. Almost two million people have become displaced in their own country. Meanwhile, the re-ignition of old conflicts in July 2016 led to a stream of refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries – above all in Uganda, which is now home to around 400,000 displaced people from South Sudan.

Water is scarce in northern Uganda – the local population already suffered from shortages – and the arrival of thousands of refugees has placed added pressure on the limited resources. Malteser International is working to provide an improved supply of clean drinking water for refugees and local people alike, in the Arua district’s Rhino Camp for refugees, the settlements of Oraba and Kuluba in the Koboko district, and in Bidibidi Camp in Yumbe district, while implementing hygiene measures to reduce the spread of sickness, and provide support for menstruating girls – who often suffer severe disadvantages, for example missing out on school, because of poor sanitation and social stigma.

An end to the war in South Sudan is not in sight, and the number of South Sudanese people fleeing to Uganda continues to rise. More than 200,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda since July 2016 alone. The welcome that they receive at their destination is remarkable. The Ugandan government gives the refugees a parcel of land where they can build huts and small farms – meaning the refugee camps in Uganda look more like a collection of small villages.

The 20,000 refugees in Rhino Camp are predominantly women and children. Most of the men remained in South Sudan in order to take care of their herds, or to fight in the war. The continually rising number of people living in the area, and the tremendous heat of the dry Ugandan savannah means that providing the refugees with clean drinking water is an enormous challenge. Unsafe drinking water can spread a range of illnesses, making it a major threat to public health. Both water sources as well as storage facilities need to be constructed and maintained safely in order to prevent this from happening. The construction of boreholes equipped with solar pumps should mean that there is enough water available for the needs of both local residents and refugees, while the construction of a solar-powered water distribution system in the refugee camps will allow clean drinking water to reach their large and growing number of people in the area.

Because they are not surrounded by fences, the water sources attract cows and other animals. In order to protect the bore holes as well as make use of the surface water, small kitchen gardens will be constructed around the water sources. The vegetables grown there will also add variety to the locals’ diet.

Personal hygiene during menstruation is a challenge for many of the girls in the area. This means that large numbers of them miss out on school during their periods, or even leave education completely. Providing girls with soap, underpants, and reusable sanitary pads; as well as helping teachers to spread hygiene techniques, and overcome prejudices associated with menstruation helps to prevent this from happening, as does the construction of washrooms and showers at schools.

To provide clean drinking water for refugees and local people, and improve levels of hygiene with a particular focus on ensuring that menstruating girls are able to attend school.

Financed by Germany's Relief Coalition - ADH and the Global Fund for Forgotten People

  • Implementation of water supply using motorized wells and high-level tanks
  • Drilling of new boreholes and repair of existing ones
  • Equipment of the seven most productive wells with solar pumps and high-level tanks
  • Creation of distribution points at tanks to reduce waiting times
  • Construction of washing areas next to distribution points
  • Construction of rainwater collection systems with 20-40,000 liter collection tanks at health centers and schools
  • Training and information campaigns on the topic of basic hygiene, as well as courses for teachers and parents
  • Distribution of soap to refugee households
  • Distribution of sanitary pads to schoolgirls, training in their proper application

Financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration:

  • Drilling of boreholes and rehabilitation of existing water sources
  • Establishment of solar powered water distribution
  • Distribution of water canisters for the safe storage and transport of water
  • Distribution of feminine hygiene materials to schoolgirls in menstrual age
  • Establishment of kitchen gardens using surface water at boreholes
  • Reestablishment of water committees to maintain water sources
  • Distribution of solar lamps to improve night safety

Country info

Capital: Kampala
Area: 241,040 km²
Population: c. 38.8 Million

Project data

Donors: Germany's Relief Coalition - ADH, Global Fund for Forgotten People (GFFP); Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM); private donations

Project financed by ADH and GFFP from December 2015
Project financed by PRM from September 2016

Last updated: October 2016

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