Eritrea

Eritrea: Rapid assessment mission - Shelter, water and sanitation

Background: The bulk of the IDPs currently in zoba Anseba have been displaced from zoba Gash-Barka and are now on the move or temporarily settled along the Anseba/Gash-Barka border.
The IDPs had previously been received mostly by the local population and at least partially absorbed into host communities; but those communities and the social safety net it constitutes are now overstretched and the need for more organized IDP camps has become increasingly obvious.

One camp called Deb'at (formerly referred to as Ziron) has been set up 23 km north of Keren, while others visited during our assessment cannot be termed camps at all -- rather way stations -- as the IDPs are encouraged and expected to move on to more suitable areas as soon as possible. The areas currently settled as way stations were chosen for their proximity to water points, though it was not clear on the part of the IDPs whether they were planning to leave those areas until clear arrangements were made for established camps.

The total number of newly settled IDPs (in Deb'at) is now at over 46,000. Those still on the move are in the process of being tentatively registered and counted. Until that process is completed, we shall have to rely on rough figures to guide our relief efforts, keeping in mind that these figures are also fluid as populations continue to move, relocated, disperse and gather.

One very worrying factor is that there are, by all accounts, large numbers of IDPs still residing or on the move in the narrow valleys of the region without proper food, medical attention or shelter (though access to water is said to be variable). Some IDPs commented that those still on the move or not yet gathering in accessible areas were not aware of food distribution and were very afraid of aerial bombing. This population must be contacted and convinced to resettle in more accessible areas for proper care and registration. One suggestion would be to hire local "runners" to scour the valleys of the regions, informing the IDPs of and encouraging them to migrate to distribution centers or established IDP camps/host communities.

IDP areas visited or informed of:

Hagaz
Fana
Shitel
Obelet
Shibukh
Adi Fakai
Mensura
Dab'at (Ziron)

Hagaz

general: Hagaz is not to be considered either an IDP camp nor a settlement area. It is instead a distribution site, although some IDPs have been taken in and assisted by the local community. The estimated population being served at this site is 16,000 - 17,000, with IDPs residing in nearby valleys and mountain passes, only coming in to collect supplies.

Shelter

IDPs' shelter was not in town, but in the surrounding valleys, but reports are that shelter is nonexistent.

Figures were unavailable on percent of population residing with host community, but the number seemed to be small compared to those residing outside the town.

No (0%) IDPs had adequate blankets, clothes, soap or cooking utensils.

No (0%) IDPs had been provided with shelter and there were no stocks available in Hagaz for distribution in the near future.

Local facilities/resources cannot be expected to cope with the needs of the IDPs.

Immediate needs: an established camp, shelter, blankets, kitchen utensils, kerosene (or other) cookers w/ kerosene (due to lack of firewood)

Water and Sanitation

Water is available within the town of Hagaz and seemed adequate for the population on a temporary basis only. Continued use by host community and increasing IDP community will very soon put unsustainable pressure on the source.

Water is supplied by water points supplied by various boreholes and storage containers.

Quality of water is acceptable

Immediate needs: an established camp with a reliable water source and/or further integration of IDPs within host community.

Sanitation problems: sewage disposal problems and risk of overcrowding.

Note: The bulk of the population remains fluid and outside the distribution area. Those areas must be located and assessed as quickly as possible as the condition of Hagaz is not so important as that of the actual settlement areas.

Fana

general:The population of Fana (7 km from Hagaz) was made up of IDPs from Barentu, Agordet and several smaller surrounding villages, according to the IDPs. Conditions were very basic. The people were very concerned about their food allotment ("DMK is for children!")

Shelter

IDPs were using the women's scarves as both bedding and "shelter".

IDPs were sleeping rough, under trees with an unspecified number, if any, residing with the very small local population.

0% were accommodated in public buildings and none were evident

0% were provided with any sort of shelter

0% were provided with blankets, clothes, soap or cooking utensils, though a tiny minority had managed to bring along 2-3 personal cooking items

Distribution was limited to DMK at the time of the visit

Local facilities/resources can in NO way be expected to meet the needs of the IDPs.

Immediate needs: an established camp, shelter, blankets, kitchen utensils, kerosene (or other) cookers w/ kerosene (due to lack of firewood)

Water and Sanitation

Water was supplied from a local borehole and was deemed adequate by the IDPs; however, should the population grow, unsustainable stress would be placed on the well.

Quality of water was judged to be adequate.

Immediate needs: jerrycans and other forms of water transport/storage

Sanitation problems: sewage disposal problems (though this is unlikely to be very different from the village of origin)

Shitel

Shelter

0% of the IDPs had adequate shelter, blankets or kitchen utensils, instead camping out under trees on the bare ground

The local community is not able to supply adequate resources/facilities to cope with the need

Immediate needs: an established camp, shelter, blankets, kitchen utensils, kerosene (or other) cookers w/ kerosene (due to lack of firewood)

Water and Sanitation

Water supply was adequate and supplied by a solar powered pump from a local borehole and water points

Quality was deemed to be adequate

Immediate needs: jerrycan cans and other forms of water transport/storage

Sanitation problems: sewage disposal problems (though this is unlikely to be very different from the village of origin)

Obelet

general: We visited this camp for only a few minutes and thus this report is sketchy at best.

Shelter

Branches and scarves had been woven together to form crude forms of shelter to protect the IDPs somewhat from the sun. The shelter is not adequate but was the only sign of initiative taken on the part of the IDPs to shelter themselves.

Firewood was more available in Obelet than in other areas visited.

Of several inadequate areas, this was perhaps the most suitable of the unsuitable areas, with adequate wood supply, tree shade and water. However the area is not easily accessible.

Immediate needs: an established camp, shelter, blankets, kitchen utensils, kerosene (or other) cookers w/ kerosene (due to lack of firewood)

Water and Sanitation

Water was supplied by a solar powered pump, closed system and water points.

Both quantity and quality were deemed to be adequate.

Immediate needs: jerrycan cans and other forms of water transport/storage

Sanitation problems: sewage disposal problems (though this is unlikely to be very different from the village of origin)

Shibukh

general: We didn't visit this area or carry out an assessment, but did drive by the school compound housing the IDPs. Information is thus sketchy, but initial observations were the following:

Shelter

IDPs were being housed in and around the school buildings, though no tents, blankets or kitchen utensils were readily in evidence. This would of course require a proper assessment to determine the reality of their situation.

Immediate needs: proper assessment and/or additional information from local ERREC or local government sources

Water and Sanitation

The water source was not seen and cannot be judged

Latrines were seen but it was unclear if they were actually being used

Immediate needs: proper assessment and/or additional information from local ERREC or local government sources

Adi Fakai

general: located 15 km from Hagaz on the road to Agordet with an estimated population of 6,000. Our team did not visit this site and so cannot properly assess it.

Mensura

general:The population of Mensura is very fluid and originates primarily from the town of Shambuko (previously displaced approximately one year ago). The IDPs were staying about 1-2 km outside the town proper along a dry riverbed and amongst a rather thick stand of trees. This group had managed to bring the most household items of any other group visited and claimed to have carried them all during the week-long journey on foot. The original inhabitants of Mensura have also been displaced out of fear of bombing and shelling, we were told, but also that there had been no such attacks thus far. The town of Mensura stands largely empty.

Shelter

A small minority of the IDPs had started to build rough shelters from branches and scarves, but the vast majority were sleeping completely rough under the shade of the trees.

At least 50% of the IDPs had managed to secure cardboard sheets and these served as bedding.

Most IDPs had some form of personal household items (blankets, kitchen utensils and other such personal belongings), though it was clear that there was a great deal of sharing amongst the population and that the need for more adequate supplies was quite real.

There are no local resources from which to draw as the town of Mensura has also been displaced.

Firewood supplies seemed adequate but only for the short term and would certainly be stressed if the local population were to return.

Immediate needs: an established camp, shelter, blankets, kitchen utensils, kerosene (or other) cookers w/ kerosene (due to lack of firewood)

Water and Sanitation

Water was deemed adequate in both quality and quantity in personal interviews with the IDPs

Water was drawn from a borehole from inside the town of Mensura approximately 1-2 km away.

Jerry cans were seen though not in adequate numbers for the entire population. Again, sharing was common.

Immediate needs: jerrycan cans and other forms of water transport/storage

Sanitation problems: sewage disposal problems (though this is unlikely to be very different from the village of origin)

Note: It should be taken into account that the settlement straddles a currently dry river. When the rainy season commences, there could well be problems with malaria and other water borne diseases.

Dab'at/Ziron

general: This is the only properly established IDP camp, but is already suffering from overcrowding. Only one week ago, the population was around 3,100 and expected to go as high as 30,000. The population now stands at over 46,000, not including the 10-11 buses which had arrived that day and those expected the following day. We were told that the camp needed to be divided into two or more parts and a new assessment would have to be carried out by the local administration once the camp reached 50,000.

The registration process is continuing smoothly with the camp divided into separate regions and all IDPs sent to =B3their=B2 area. Since the local administrators were also displaced along with the IDPs, they are currently registering their own people in their areas as they arrive and will turn those figures over to the main camp administration upon completion. The main camp administration has thus far concerned itself with registering only those who collect goods and so their figures may be incomplete. However, the process of sharing data has already started and should be completed shortly.

Shelter

2,000 tents were distributed in Dab'at (1,000 from ICRC and 1,000 from ERREC) to a population of over 46,000 with 13,350 families, leaving 11,350 families without adequate shelter.

2,000 blankets were distributed with one blanket per family, thus leaving 11,350 families without any blankets at all and the 2,000 recipients without adequate supplies.

Kitchen utensils were seen in some cases but figures for distribution were not available at the time, but the administrator informed us that the camp population was working out a sharing agreement for limited resources and were slowly coming to terms with their new situation as it improved.

Local resources cannot hope to cope with this huge number and all goods will have to be transported in, including water.

Immediate needs: at least 11,350 family sized tents, at least 11,350 blankets (though quadruple that number would be preferable), kitchen utensils, buckets, jerrycans, kerosene cookers and kerosene due to the lack of adequate firewood for the enormous population being housed there.

Water and Sanitation

Water was previously a problem with only one water tanker available in addition to a local semi-covered well and water storage container, but the addition of four water tankers with twice daily runs to Keren have helped solve the problem.

There are now three water storage bladders (of 10,000 liters each) placed throughout the camp and another main storage facility located centrally

Sanitation problem: The camp is far too crowded and, though no disease outbreaks or serious problems have yet serviced, it was the common opinion that it was only a matter of time; sewage disposal problems (though Oxfam will soon be building latrines); pollution/contamination of open water sources (being dealt with by local government); overcrowding in shelters

Conclusion: The temporary settlement sites should most likely receive emergency assistance right away, while immediate priority is given to locating a suitable area(s) for proper long-term settlement. The IDPs should then be relocated to these safe areas as quickly as possible so that their longer term needs might be better dealt with.

The shelter condition is appalling in all the temporary way stations and inadequate in Dab'at, but for a population on the move -- and that mostly on foot -- it really cannot be expected to be much better. Dab'at, quite simply, needs more tents, blankets, water storage containers, and kitchen utensils. Again, settlement of the IDPs is a priority. With the oncoming rains, to delay will most certainly spell prove a most serious problem.

The water situation was very encouraging at all sites. The IDPs have obviously sought out the best suited areas to meet their water needs, with those needs being adequately met for the time being. However, these are temporary sites.

The sanitation concerns have not been addressed nor met. With the IDP population on the move, the building of latrines would seem superfluous and wasteful of both time and resources, perhaps also encouraging the IDPs to remain in these unsuitable areas.

A priority should also be given to supplying the IDPs with the means to preparing their own food -- ie. kerosene cookers and kerosene. In most all sites, the local firewood resources were inadequate to the present, much less any future, needs. Of course, in this emergency situation, the IDPs have little choice but to cook with wood. However, longer-term environmental considerations should also be taken and addressed as quickly as possible.

Jeffrey L. Shannon

Eritrean Development Foundation
P.O. Box 2967
Asmara, ERITREA
tel.: (291 1) 18 40 57
fax: (291 1) 12 51 45
e-mail: jlshannon@gemel.com.er