THE REDCROSS EMERGENCY RESPONSE UNIT (M40) ARRIVES IN UGANDA TO SERVE 40,000 REFUGES WITH CLEAN WATER PER DAY
Since fighting broke out in South Sudan in July 2016, Uganda has had a large influx of refugees, fleeing for safety. It is estimated that Northern Uganda alone is home to close to more than 600,000 refugees who fled from the violence; mostly women and children. The situation is one of the worst ongoing humanitarian crises that has put Humanitarian agencies on their toes. The crisis has had a huge impact on the resources for countries where the refugees are fleeing to. Uganda is one of those countries and probably receives the highest number of these refugees per day. Uganda Red Cross being one of the Humanitarian agencies in Uganda and among the key lead stake holders in this emergency response has partnered with the Government, Office of the Prime Minister in charge of refugees, UNHCR and are offering humanitarian support.
Since the beginning of the operation in August 2016, Red Cross has been providing support as mandated by government of Uganda. The support is in form of pumping water, restoration of family links, assisting unaccompanied children, providing health referral services and registering refugees as soon as they arrive.
Since the number keeps growing each day, their needs too keep growing and this has direct impact on available resources. Among the scarce resources is water which is an essential of life. According to sphere standards in an emergency set up, every refugee in a camp setting is entitled to 20 litres of water per day. However, due to a number of factors, the capacity of URCS to serve refugees with water as per expected sphere standards has been low. Uganda Red Cross has been providing water at 65% rate. Each refugees has been getting between 9-11 litres of water per day which is below standards. The staff and volunteers at the different water points have been working for over 15 hours pumping water and ensuring it is availed for trucking to the camp and serve the refugees using available local tools / water pumps. These have been over worked and won out hence making sustainability of this activity impossible.
With the launch of the emergency appeal by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, partners like the Swedish, German and Australian Red Cross have been able to secure an Emergency Response Unit –M40 (WASH ERU) to support URCS efforts to increase the capacity of URCS to pump and avail clean water for the refugees. The UNIT has been arranged and chattered to Uganda by the same donors.
Speaking during the arrival of the “ERU – M40” at Entebbe International Airport, Robert Kwesiga – URCS Secretary General appreciates the spirit of togetherness exhibited by fellow partner National Societies (Swedish, German and Australia) for supporting Uganda Red Cross efforts in availing clean water to the refugees. “This unit plus costs related to managing it is worth a million Euros and this is with support from our Red Cross family to boost our efforts in saving 40,000 lives per day. This is a true representation of the spirit of togetherness in the Red Cross / Red Crescent family.” Kwesiga added.
The ERU-M40 has a set of equipment and a technical team to support the Uganda Red Cross Society staff to carry out WASH activities in Bidi bidi camp,Imvepi and Rhino Camps in Northern Uganda. This will be the 4th Red Cross water production and treatment facility that will serve refugees in Northern Uganda. “It will serve a population of 40,000 refugees per day and will produce over 600,000 literes of water per day. This is way beyond what the current water pumps have been providing.” Kwesiga adds.
Recently, government of Uganda opened another refugee camp in Imvepi and it is expected to accommodate 150,000 refugees. The arrival of the M40 is expected to boost capacity of URCS to serve refugees in Rhino and Imvepi camps while other water facilities in Enyau and Obongi will serve Bidibidi and Parolinya respectively.
The government of Uganda is equally excited about the unit. It is looked at as a big boost to the work the government is doing in the camps. “Uganda Red Cross and the international Red Cross body are one of the greatest agencies we have on ground supporting this operation. With support that has come in from the Swedish, Australian and German Red Cross societies, we see the water trucking getting to greater levels and this is a very great push to our efforts. You have exhibited the true spirit of partnership that government has always looked for in the agencies that we work with. We thank you for your support and pray that we continue working together as we support the people of South Sudan.” Says Paul Kazungu, Commissioner for Refugees, office of the Prime Minister in Uganda.
The ERU will also among other things address serious health concerns of the refugees, especially related to sanitation and hygiene promotion. Access to clean water mitigates disease outbreaks in the camps and this is a live saving effort. The technical team from will stay for the next 4 months to ensure proper functionality of the unit, as well as train local Red Cross staff and volunteers who will manage it until it’s life time in Uganda, in service to Humanity.