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Providing 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 one million 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 a million South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda since July 2016. 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 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 the Global Fund for Forgotten People (GFFP)

  • 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 Gernman Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

  • Installation of 8 water distibution systems in Rhino Camp
  • Training in horticultural technology and tree care
  • Distribution of garden tools to 100 households
  • Distribution of seed and orchad replants

Financed by Germany's Relief Coalition (ADH)

  • Water deliveries using tanker lorries
  • Installation of 2 10,000 liter tanks
  • Motorization of 2 wells in Bidibidi, Yumbe district
  • Construction of 6 water transport systems

Financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)

  • 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

Financed by the
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)

  • Motorization of 6 wells and installation of 6 water distribution systems
  • Construction of water tanks, with pump system, and water collection points as well as washing areas
  • Creation of gardens to prevent stagnat waters and insects breeding at water collection points
  • Training Water User Committees on the topic of water consevation and security and maintenance of facilities
  • Providing Water User Committees with garden tools, seeds, and equipment for quality water testing

Financed by the German Federal Foreign Office (AA)

  • Installation of 12 10,000 liter water tanks, and equipping them with taps
  • Motorization of 3 wells and erection of 2-3 water collection points
  • Distribution of agricultural equipment, seed, and propagation plants to 150 households, and training them on simple modern cultivation techniques

Country info

Capital: Kampala
Area: 241,040 km²
Population: c. 47.8 million

Project data

Gernman Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany's Relief Coalition (ADH), Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), German Federal Foreign Office (AA)


Project duration:

Project financed by BMZ: July 2016 - April 2019

Project financed by ADH: August 2016 - December 2017

Project financed by PRM: Spetember 2016 - August 2017

Project financed by ECHO: December 2016 - November 2017

Project financed by AA: March 2017 - February 2018


Last updated: April 2017

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