Challenges of supplying water for thousands of IDPs in Ag Geneina
Children are lining up with their donkeys to fill up water containers at a water point in one of the sections of the Al Jebel neighbourhood, adjacent to the Abuzar camp in Ag Geneina, capital of West Darfur State. They wait patiently for their turn, with their donkeys shooing away flies with their tails.
The children come here almost daily to get water for drinking, cooking and washing for their families. At least it is not far from our houses, other people have to go far or buy water.
Until recently there was piped water in most of the neighbourhood prior to the violence in early April, and the kids did not have to fetch water as it was available in their homes. During the violence the water pumps were badly damaged and people who were operating the pumps and the supply network fled.
Meanwhile, in other parts of Ag Geneina one can see queues of water carts pulled by donkeys lining to fill up and move on to provide water to their eager customers. A barrel and a half of water - roughly 240 litres - costs about 3,000 SDG (about US7.32). Very often the water sold in water carts has slight salinity.
This highlights the daunting the task of providing 151,300 IDPs currently sheltering in Ag Geneina with safe water.
As of 31 May, humanitarian organizations are providing an estimated 19,000 IDPs in Ag Geneina with about 10 litres of safe water per person per day (l/p/d). Scaling up is challenged by the nature of the displacement with people scattered across over 100 gathering sites making water trucking not feasible and costly.
Moreover, the current situation is quite different from the modus operandi humanitarian organisations in Darfur have been operating with. The current crisis in Ag Geneina is IDPs in an urban setting, where it is not clear how long the people will stay at gathering sites, and where they will eventually move. In a traditional IDP camp setting, humanitarian partners would start working on installing water systems and rely on water trucking only for a limited period. However, this option is not on the table in Ag Geneina.
To tackle the issue, water sector partners are drilling six boreholes in the vicinity of the gathering sites to ensure sustainable access to water supply. Also, the State Water Company is currently upgrading the urban water system by installing 11 submersible pumps, one of them will be dedicated to fou gathering sites. This upgrade is aimed at increasing the water supply to host communities and IDPs.
So far, WASH sector partners have covered 55 out of 88 gathering sites in Ag Geneina with at least 10 l/p/d. The Sphere standard is minimum 15 l/p/d.There are some challenges related to lack of private vendors for water trucking and chlorination for urban water network is a critical gap.
Meanwhile, humanitarian partners advocate for a sustainable solution for the 151,300 displaced people in Ag Geneina before the rains start in June-July.