Access to water and sanitation helps halt risk of disease in growing refugee camps on Uganda border

Reporting by: Irene Nakasiita

Under the scorching afternoon sun, a young woman walks through the narrow, bushy foot path with a jerrycan. She opens a running tap near a fenced water plant, fills her jerrycan and returns to the path. She is Beatrice Anyei, 26. With a shy smile she welcomes me to follow her to her home.

Beatrice lives in a one-room grass thatched hut with her elder brother and her two-year-old son. Her husband died in the war in South Sudan, and in the end of 2016 the rest of the family managed to flee to Uganda. They now live in Uganda’s second largest settlement for displaced persons, called Parolinya. It hosts over 183,000 South Sudanese and over 10,000 from the surrounding countries.

She wakes up at 7 am every morning to start running her errands and to walk three kilometers to buy fish, which she then dries in the sun. In the evening she takes the fish to the market to raise income for her family. On a daily basis, she earns 3,000 shillings (about one US dollar) to purchase the minimum her family requires in order to survive.

The Parolinya Water Plant, taken over from MSF-Holland by Uganda Red Cross Society, has improved Beatrice’s life significantly.

“I am happy. Before we had to draw water from the Nile. My baby was always sick because of the bad quality of the water,” she says.

“Now we are safe, we no longer fall sick. I am grateful that the Red Cross brought safe and clean water near us. This water is unique because the Red Cross people make it clear and very pure white. We can use it for cooking, for washing fresh fish, washing our clothes and for bathing.”

Water and sanitation saves lives

Along with food and shelter, safe water and sanitation are the highest priority interventions in emergency situations. Unless adequate water and sanitation services are provided quickly, disease and death could follow.

Uganda Red Cross is currently operating the Parolinya water plant, with the support of the Swedish Red Cross, IFRC and Austrian Red Cross, where it is producing 2.4 million liters of water per day.

Uganda Red Cross society has deployed two highly trained engineers at the site and dedicated a team of 58, such as quality control experts, laboratory technicians, hygiene promoters and chemists.

“We are able to truck water every day and serve over 120,000 people,” says Martin Mbadhi, site overseer.

“The team has been working hard since day one and we are glad to say we are doing a great job here.”