Severe water shortages in refugee camps close to the Sudanese border have contributed to a rise in mortality and malnutrition rates to alarming levels, in what is a major humanitarian crisis. The ICRC has launched a project to improve water access for about 37,000 people in Yusuf Batil camp.
Fleeing armed conflict, many thousands of Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile state in Sudan have flooded into South Sudan's Maban county, Upper Nile state, since September 2011. Their numbers have been increasing since May. Living in remote areas at home, most arrive exhausted after an arduous journey on foot that can last weeks. They have found shelter in isolated camps whose stretched resources are often insufficient to cover peoples' basic needs.
"The humanitarian situation in Yusuf Batil camp in particular is extremely worrying. Conditions are dire and survival remains a struggle. Owing to the lack of clean water, people are drinking contaminated surface water. Children are especially vulnerable to death from water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea," said Melker Mabeck, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan.
"The ICRC is tackling this emergency by expanding the camp's water infrastructure and distributing jerrycans and buckets so people are better able to collect and store water."
The ICRC plans to install water distribution piping, storage tanks, tapstands and pumps to provide enough water for half the camp's population. This should ease pressure on existing systems and bring overall water access in the camp up to the minimum required standard. Currently refugees in Yusuf Batil have access to very limited quantities only, with water coverage especially poor for those sheltered on the camp's peripheries.
In addition, the entire camp population will receive items to protect themselves from the elements, such as clothing, tarpaulin, blankets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats. Seasonal heavy rains, which will continue through to November, make the area extremely inhospitable, creating thick mud and large swathes of stagnant water. The rains also make transporting aid to the camp a logistical challenge, with all supplies having to be airlifted into the area.
Meanwhile in nearby Jamam refugee camp, also suffering from very limited water coverage, the ICRC is now close to completing a 15-kilometre distribution pipeline to provide better access to water for the 30,000 refugees sheltering there.