Gaining access to water: A grandmother’s plight
By Suzie Suh
Tents, with their ragged ends flapping in the wind, are spotted across the M’Poko airport displaced persons site as far as the eye can see. Yet, in some ways, life almost seems to go on like normal.
At a water tap, women fill buckets with water and perch them on top of their hands. Children scamper around, splashing in the puddles.
It was not always this way. When people from Bangui first fled violence to the airport area, they found physical shelter, but no water or sanitation facilities.
“But almost immediately, UNICEF and the European Commission – Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection department (ECHO) mobilized to ensure that families in these camps would have basic water, sanitation and hygiene.”
“We are so lucky that we got water here,” says Celine Yengouandji. She is 65 years old and a retired government worker.
She explains that she and her extended family were forced to flee their home when Seleka groups attacked her neighborhood. Now they cannot return, because their house has been destroyed.
Approximately 50,000 persons are estimated to live in the M’Poko IDP site. UNICEF provides water to about 12,500 people each day, and has supported the construction of latrines and showers for IDPs.
The water is delivered in large bladders every day from the SODECA water utility business, which purifies water for the city of Bangui with the support of ECHO.
But conditions are difficult. Currently, approximately 39 people share one latrine, and 147 people must share a shower.
“All we want is to go home,” Celine says. “But we cannot. We are grateful that we at least have clean water here, but what will happen in the rainy season? There is cholera, we are all afraid of this.”