|© UNICEF Sudan/Claycombe|
|Children and women await their turn at a new pump provided by Unicef and the National Water Corporation in the Kalma IDP camp near Nyala, South Darfur, in western Sudan.|
In the few weeks since the end of April, the number of internally displaced people with access to safe drinking water has doubled to 300,000. But UNICEF believes that some 700,000 conflict-affected people still do not have access to safe water.
The Darfur region is currently facing a ruinous humanitarian crisis, with more than one million people displaced from their homes and numbers rising daily. Aid organizations are moving to assist the region’s displaced people before the rainy season begins in a few weeks when tens of thousands will be impossible to reach by vehicle.
“Access to clean water is of paramount importance,” said JoAnna van Gerpen, UNICEF Representative in Khartoum. “While every effort we make in health, nutrition and protection is a building block in saving the lives of countless children, clean water goes to the heart of a child’s good health in a crisis.”
UNICEF has worked closely with the Sudanese National Water Corporation to rehabilitate and install new hand pumps throughout North, South and West Darfur. Almost 190 new pumps have been installed and 320 existing pumps repaired in IDP camps and towns that have absorbed large numbers of displaced families.
Suleiman Arabi, who leads the water rehabilitation project for the National Water Corporation, says that his drilling teams have taken advantage of ceasefire periods, and are working around the clock. Teams of health educators and social workers work in the camps at the same time to maximise sanitation around water points, and reduce the spread of disease.
Working at full capacity, the old rigs in use in Darfur can drill 100 boreholes at most each year. Already, they have drilled 80 boreholes in North Darfur, 60 in South Darfur and 47 in West Darfur. To meet the full needs, Arabi estimated that each rig should drill 300 boreholes a year.
“We hope these old rigs hold up a while longer,” said UNICEF’s van Gerpen. “We have one new rig coming in and are exploring options in the private sector and with other agencies.”
In a barren region with one of the lowest levels of access to water, this campaign is benefiting host communities as well as the displaced. Many people in the communities that have absorbed thousands of the displaced are coming to the camps for the fresh water supply. For many, the new and rehabilitated pumps have reduced the traditional five hour journey for water for a woman to less than half of that.
In addition to the handpumps, UNICEF and the National Water Corporation have provided four water tanks for the sprawling Mornei camp in West Darfur, ensuring water supply for about 12,000 people. Two water yards – larger systems that roughly equal the output of 15 handpumps -- have been installed in the Ardamata camp in West Darfur. Three more are now operational in the Abou Shouk camp and one in Kutum camp in North Darfur.
The second component of the water and hygiene campaign is provision of latrines. With Oxfam, UNICEF has supported the construction of 1,579 latrines and Oxfam has constructed 1,500 communal latrines in Abou Shouk camp just north of El Fasher.
The third part of UNICEF’s support is providing water containers – called jerry cans – soap, mugs and buckets. As of mid-May, 24,000 families in North and South Darfur had received a package with these supplies but far more is needed.
“The need for more resources is clear,” noted van Gerpen. “To provide water and sanitation to another 600,000 people, UNICEF has appealed for US$ 3.8 million between May and December. We are a long way from meeting the total need.”
For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.