Wednesday, June 27, 2012

South Sudan-Sudan: Worsening water shortages as refugee camps swell

Source: ICRC

More Sudanese refugees have flooded into camps in South Sudan in recent weeks. The ICRC has completed a seven-kilometre water distribution line for the Jamam camp, in Upper Nile state, and repaired hand pumps in Yida, another large refugee camp, in Unity state.

The conflict situation in northern parts of South Sudan has largely calmed down over the last month, although many thousands of displaced people have yet to return to their homes after having fled intensified fighting in April and May. Refugees from Sudan continue to stream into camps in Upper Nile and Unity states close to the northern border. The heavy rains expected to begin shortly will make these remote areas virtually inaccessible.

"The lack of clean drinking water in Jamam refugee camp represents a major public health risk," said Melker Mabeck, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan. "The approaching heavy rains could bring more deadly water-borne diseases, especially if refugees drink contaminated surface water directly."

Seven-kilometre water pipeline

The ICRC has installed a seven-kilometre water distribution line to transfer water into the Jamam refugee camp, helping ensure clean water continues to reach refugees when rain makes the roads impassable for water trucks. It has also donated four tanks for storing collected rainwater to the camp clinic. The ICRC is now exploring ways to transfer more water into the camp.

In Yida refugee camp, situated in Pariang County, Unity state, two hand pumps were repaired to help cope with increased demand as the refugee population rises. Since the start of 2012, the ICRC has repaired another 20 hand pumps and a water point in Pariang county to provide 12,000 people with access to clean water within a reasonable walking distance from where they live.

Bringing aid to remote areas

Following clashes in early May close to the Sudanese border, more than 1800 people fled to Firka village in Raja county, Western Bahr el Ghazal state. In this remote area rarely entered by humanitarian organizations, the ICRC repaired the village hand pump, cleaned three hand-dug wells and trained the community in how to treat water at home using chlorine tablets. Other support to the village is being looked into, including the distribution of food and items like mosquito nets and tarpaulin.

The ICRC continues to upgrade water treatment plants in Bentiu and Rubkona, the two main towns in Unity state. Recently, a new motor pump was installed and work began overhauling the piping systems.

In Akobo in Jonglei state, the ICRC handed over three solar-powered water points to the local water board. The systems, which provide a sustainable solution to the water shortages in the area, pump approximately 90,000 litres of water every hour and can provide clean water to up to 55,000 people.

Phone calls to restore contact between family members

The ICRC has also helped many family members separated from one another by conflict to get back in contact. Over 1,000 phone calls have been made between refugees in South Sudanese camps and their close relatives since the start of the year.

The ICRC's operations in southern Sudan began in 1986. The organization set up a delegation in South Sudan's biggest city, Juba, when the country became independent on 9 July 2011. The ICRC also has two sub-delegations in the new country, in Malakal and Wau. In South Sudan, the ICRC works to prevent violations of international humanitarian law and supports hospital and physical rehabilitation services. It also helps conflict-affected communities to survive and become self-sufficient.