UNICEF responding to water needs of communities during the crisis
"Without this service we would be exposed to disease. The children and community are now happy.”
Thousands of people have arrived in East Darfur after fleeing conflict that erupted in Khartoum and across the Darfur states. Being relatively stable, East Darfur is currently a transit area and a preferred route for recent arrivals with about 2,000 people crossing daily by cars and trucks.
The grim faces of children, women and caretakers on arrival speaks to the dire impact the conflict has had on them. With the extreme temperatures, they shelter under trees and in need of support including safe and clean drinking water. The new arrivals are putting a strain on the available services and resources, including the existing water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. The already scarce water is being shared, and without it, many remain at risk of unsafe water sources.
UNICEF in partnership with civil society, private sector, and coordination with relevant line ministries is responding to the water needs of communities during this time of crisis. Previously, UNICEF installed, upgraded, and rehabilitated water sources in Eldaein, East Darfur to boost the supply of clean and safe drinking water for communities; but as fighting in Khartoum and the Darfurs remains, the number of people fleeing and arriving in East Darfur is growing, and more water is needed.
Immediate water, sanitation, and hygiene response
With the increasing and pressing WASH needs, water trucking operations, a common relief intervention during emergencies, has been prioritized. Currently water is being delivered closer to communities via large tanks from permanent water sources (boreholes accessing deep groundwater) to areas without permanent water points between 20 and 120 kilometers away.
Through two to three trips daily, the water trucks pump clean and safe water into the 5,000 litre bladders installed by UNICEF which have been placed within easy reach and access for over 6,000 people including children.
“Water trucking in this context has played a pivotal role in addressing basic water needs,” shared Abubaker Haroun, Programme Manager, Water Environmental Sanitation Department.
The quality of water is also checked daily to mitigate the risks of water-borne disease as well as other communicable diseases, “We do this using efficient methods,” Haroun confirmed.
At the water point is Halima Ibrahim, a 35 -year-old displaced mother.
Halima and her family fled the conflict in Khartoum and currently live in Elneem IDP camp, along with other 50,000 internally displaced persons.
Clean water for the host communities too
Not only do the displaced people need clean water, but the neighboring communities also need it too. 40-year-old Awatif Ahmed, a subsistence farmer from the host community says the two-kilometer pipeline installed with UNICEF support has brought the water closer to her home and is a huge relief especially during the hot period. “I once watched my children fall sick due to dehydration during the hot season and yet we lacked sufficient drinking water,” she noted.
Awatif now has access to sufficient water so close to her home.
For Awatif and many others, the water point is making a very big difference as they now have extra time to cater to other activities. “I want to learn a new skill so I can provide more for my children.”
Amidst laughter, she shares what clean water means to her and her family.
The new water supply investments benefitting both displaced and host communities are impacting greatly on promoting peace and co-existence among these vulnerable communities.
But what is clean water without proper sanitation?
Clean water alone is not enough. From the onset of the influx, UNICEF, in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health, constructed emergency latrines complete with handwashing facilities to control disease outbreaks and decrease the exposure to diarrheal diseases. Additionally, hygiene volunteers from the communities have also been deployed to disseminate messages on proper sanitation and hygiene practices, monitor cleanliness of the facilities and ensure the installed locally made handwashing facilities (also known as ‘ibriek’), have water and soap at all times, to support hand hygiene at critical points, like after using the latrine.
Prepositioning supplies for quick response during crisis
Majority of the families arriving in East Darfur, have hardly carried any belongings as they fled. Not many have storage containers to safely keep the water collected free from contamination, let alone soap for hygiene.
As part of its preparedness plan, UNICEF earlier prepositioned stockpiles of 25,000 pieces of soap and 10,000 water containers enough to cater to over 5,000 people for times such as these. More supplies have been delivered in East Darfur and can cater to the spiraling numbers of displaced people in need.
In East Darfur, since the beginning of the crisis, UNICEF and partners have stayed to deliver, stepping up the provision of clean and safe water to over 165,000 people (90,750 children), as well as improving sanitation for over 4,500 (2,475 children) and hygiene measures to more than 72,000 (39,600 children), among both displaced and host communities. This support is essential in this type of emergency situations, where limited existing resources come under pressure and water-borne diseases can easily spread rapidly.