Preventing a water crisis in a camp for the displaced in Georgia
By Dorn Townsend
GENEVA, Switzerland, 3 October 2008 – The rumours began shortly after the conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, ended in early September. The water in the Gori camp wasn't safe, they said. The enemy was poisoning the water supply. Children were getting sick.
These wild stories were quickly corrected. But subsequent tests confirmed that while the city's water supply appeared safe, its quality still conformed to Cold War era, Eastern Block standards. Those quality standards aren't as rigorous as the international norms that UNICEF supports.
Further investigation revealed another surprise: The city's chlorine supply, which is necessary for ridding water of harmful bacteria, would run out in a matter of days.
Taking immediate action
UNICEF and its partners are taking immediate action to ensure that water supplies in the Gori camp remain safe. Additional chlorine is being dripped into the water supply to raise the quality up to international norms. UNICEF has also rushed more chlorine to the city to make sure water quality remains high.
New filtration center pledged
While the international community has pledged to build Gori a new water filtration center, it won't be ready until at least 2010. Until then, UNICEF and its partners are working with the government to monitor water safety levels.
“This kind of preventive intervention can make all the difference to incidences of diarrhoea in children under five,” said UNICEF Representative in Georgia Giovanna Barberis. “The challenge now is to sustain these efforts through the winter and the coming months.”