DSS water expert Aida van Eijk is currently assisting UNHCR in the Upper Neil State in South Sudan. In 2011, the eruption of conflicts and armed fighting in the Blue Neil State of Sudan had forced many people to escape to the Upper Neil State of South Sudan and seek refuge.
Arriving early April, Aida’s main role is to assist in managing the WASH programme and to ensure the sustainability of services offered to 300.000 refugees. This means meeting the UNHCR global standards in providing a minimum of 20 liters of drinking water per person per day. In this blog she gives an update on her experiences so far.
The Doro Camp: biggest of four, hosting 60.000 refugees
‘UNHCR supports approximately 300.000 refugees who mainly come from Sudan and have settled in four refugee camps: Doro, Batil, Gendrassa and Kays. The Doro Camp is the biggest camp and hosts around 60.000 people. These numbers are still increasing however due to high birth rates and the continuous arrival of more refugees. To meet the water needs as per global standard there is a pressing demand for new drinking boreholes to be drilled. I have coordinated with the WASH implementing partners to drill three new boreholes in the Doro Camp to provide clean water.
Introducing sustainable solutions
Most of UNHCR’s water pumping systems in the four camps are powered by solar energy. Because operating a solar system requires specific training, I arranged for national WASH staff to go abroad for training on solar pumping operation to ensure proper maintenance and management of these systems.
As UNHCR faces funding difficulties, including for WASH, I am currently promoting an initiative to come up with alternatives for more appropriate sanitation designs and at the same time have them be more cost effective and durable. The proposal includes utilization of locally available, affordable and sustainable materials such as bricks made out of mud and hay. I am coordinating with the Shelter Cluster to produce the mud bricks for latrines as they will be used for the construction of shelters. Another material also included in the proposal is the use of bamboo sticks as it is widely available and cost effective in comparison to cutting trees and making poles for construction.
“I could not hide my tears of joy”
Being a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Expert for many years and having worked in numerous corners of the globe, it never stops impressing me when people finally get their WASH systems in place. From situations like these I take away a bigger outlook and appreciation to life when seeing what we take for granted is still a privilege for so many. Access to safe and clean water definitely tops the list.
I could not hide my tears of joy when I witnessed how the residents of the Doro Camp closely observed when the drilling of the first borehole started. They were sitting on the ground under a very sharp sun, at a safe distance from the drilling rig, and cheered on the drilling team like ecstatic fans at a football stadium when seeing the drilling progress. When boring finally proved successful and water was gushing out of the ground, the onlooking crowd was celebrating as if they had just won the FIFA World Cup.
As the conflict is still ongoing the refugees’ needs for enhanced and efficient water and sanitational services will remain a priority. In turn the UNHCR will remain committed to protect and accommodate to these refugees.’