22.03.2020 - News

Making safe drinking water accessible to all

Access to drinking water is one of the top fundamental needs to be covered in an emergency. 210 million children living in situations of fragility or conflict do not have such access. Epidemics like cholera spread very rapidly in environments where running water is scarce, sanitation systems are lacking and the practices of hygiene are poor. The supply of water is even further limited where the security or geographic situation prevents the affected communities’ access to it.

The town of Rann in northern Nigeria close to the frontier to Cameroon, hosts a camp for displaced persons. This camp was briefly occupied by Boko Haram at the beginning of 2019 and is still under the constant threat of attacks. Moreover, all the roads are inaccessible during the rainy season. The access to Rann is thus extremely difficult and infrequently used by the Tdh teams.

Training for community volunteers

Thanks to an ongoing collaboration with the community of the Rann camp, we are able to ensure access to safe drinking water for the displaced families, despite the problems. To manage this, we have trained 90 volunteers in the chlorination of water to disinfect it and make it drinkable. The volunteers also organise sessions of awareness-making where they explain good practices about hand washing to their communities. Our teams have built 200 toilets and 200 showers in the camp.

“Since the end of 2018, there has not been a single case of cholera – and we are talking about an area of Nigeria where cholera epidemics are endemic”, explains Bruno Pascual, our expert in water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies. Up to date, Tdh is the only organization in the Rann camp capable of giving access to water for the 35,000 people who live there.

Read more: Childhood in a protracted crisis

Remote quality control

It is impossible for our specialists to go regularly to check on the quality of the water treated. “The question was to know how to work from a distance whilst maintaining the good quality of the drinking water”, adds Bruno Pascual. The solution? Sensors installed in the water points that send real time information on the quality of the water. This system makes it possible to detect the presence of pathogens in the water and give instructions to the volunteers to adjust the chlorination.

Checking the quality of the water is essential to guarantee the health of the families. In this way it improves the survival chances of thousands of children and their families living in war zones that are hard to access.

This prototype is currently being tested in Rann. We plan to reproduce it in other emergency contexts so as to better prevent epidemics.

Photo credit: ©Tdh/A.Akande