Water is running out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

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Following two outbursts of intercommunity violence in June and October 2012, over 140,000 Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims were displaced, with the vast majority of them continuing to remain in camps located in both urban and rural areas, more often in precarious sanitary conditions. Lack of water in Pauktaw Township has left resources depleted, paving the way for the spread of waterborne diseases.

In Pauktaw Township, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been the main water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) actor for Ah Nauk Ye camp and village and Nget Chaung camp since 2013, providing assistance to nearly 13,000 people. In the area, communities traditionally collect water from ponds which fill in during the rainy season. Water from the ponds is then used by the people living in the camps during the dry season - from October to May. “This situation leads to a critical risk of scarcity as the Monsoon is sometimes shorter than expected, says Emmett Kearney, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s WASH Coordinator in Myanmar. Fresh water is not sufficiently available during the dry season. If the ponds are not filled enough during the rainy season, they will become dry before the next rains.”

Related to this lack of water comes the increase of water related diseases - causing more diarrhoea - due to poor water quality when the ponds start to dry. Moreover, the isolation due to the context and situation of the IDPs, but also the remoteness of the camps and villages does not allow them to have access to other water sources. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams implemented emergency water transport activities in each of the previous dry seasons in order to provide the minimum amount of water to the people living there, through ‘water boating’.

Impact of El Niño

“2014 and 2015 have been particularly critical years in terms of water availability, says Emmett Kearney. The lack of water will not be improved in the coming year, as El Niño’s predicted effects are to have less rainfall, leading to more stress on resources.”

By building additional ponds in Pauktaw camps, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL will increase the quantity and quality of water available during the dry season. It will enable people to have access to water until the next rainy season and hence, reduce the risk of a potable water shortage and the related diseases. In a longer-term perspective, this should ensure a minimum quantity of water to people for years to come.