7 January 2013
A three-month emergency programme to improve living conditions at the Batil refugee camp in South Sudan has successfully increased residents’ access to clean, safe drinking water.
Since the historic independence of South Sudan in July 2011, those leaving Sudan have faced enormous challenges of migration, resettlement and survival. Many arrive at refugee camps in South Sudan suffering from exhaustion and hunger, having escaped conflict and walked for weeks.
A Médecins Sans Frontières survey at the Batil camp in July showed that most of the 38,000 residents did not have enough access to drinking water or basic shelter materials. Heavy rains had made the situation worse, and immediate, effective relief was needed to halt a long-term humanitarian crisis.
Red Cross support
An urgent International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) programme focused on improving the supply of safe drinking water and providing emergency household items such as blankets, mosquito nets and soap. The British Red Cross supported the effort with £200,000 in emergency funds.
Chris Davies, British Red Cross delegate with the ICRC in South Sudan, worked on the project to improve access to clean water. He said: “There have been outbreaks of diarrhoea and hepatitis E in the camps. People had to walk too long to fetch water so were using dirty surface water and getting skin diseases. Lack of access to clean water is the cause of it all.
“But we’ve now increased the network of tap stands, especially for communities further out, so they don’t have to walk so far to get water.”
The new water facilities, including water points, tap stands and generators will ensure water pumps operate for 20 hours a day. The ICRC team has also increased the capacity to store water in the camp. With these improvements, the average Batil resident’s access to water has increased from 7 litres per day to 17 litres.
This success supplements the work Médecins Sans Frontières, GOAL, the World Food Programme and others are doing to provide medical assistance, food supplies and sanitation provisions. With better access to water, sanitation, food and shelter, basic survival will be less of a day-to-day struggle for the residents of the camp.
This specific ICRC programme to improve water facilities at the Batil refugee camp has now concluded, however both the ICRC and British Red Cross continue to work in South Sudan. The British Red Cross is working with the South Sudan Red Cross as it builds up its capacity to respond to crises. And the ICRC conducts vaccination of livestock, provides assistance to Malakal teaching hospital and continues to support Batil and Jamam refugee camps in the north of the country.
Watch a video interview with Chris Davies in South Sudan