YUMBE – The persistent water crisis faced by refugees from South Sudan in Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement in Yumbe District, where people are surviving on a 20 litre-jerrican of water per household per day, could soon come to an end with the intervention of Coca Cola.
The donation of a water plant worth 100,000 Euros (UGX418.5m) by United Bottling Company of Equatorial Coca Cola in South Sudan is to construct two water pumping stations that will supply water to village 9 and 10 with a population of about 6,500 people.
During the launch of the water plants on Thursday, April 4, Mr. Mark Hoodgendam, the general manager UBC Equatorial South Sudan Coca Cola, said since independent Coca Cola has been supporting South Sudanese both in the country and those living abroad. He prays that peace comes to South Sudan so that the refugees can return home to live in harmony.
At the event, Ms. Sheila Akullu, the United Nation High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) WASH officer, said the plants will address the challenge of access to clean water by providing at least 20 litres per day per person to the worst affected two villages.
She said access to clean water in village 9 and 10 was low compared to other settlements because of lack of a sustainable water system.
Ms. Oliver Tabu, 25, a resident of Village 9, said some people utilize 20 litres per day per household because they would move 4-5 kilometres distance to get water from other settlements.
“Because of water scarcity people long distance from village 9 and 10 to villages like 5, 6, and others to look for water and sometimes they can only get 20 litres for the family per day, ” Ms. Tabu said.
Ms. Betty Lagwen, 26, a resident of Village 9, said they always spend more than four hours looking for water in about 4 kilometres from other villages and at time forced to dig into the sand along the valley to get water for drinking and cooking leave alone bathing and washing items. She said her family is surviving on five jerricans of 20 litres of water weekly.
To make matters worse, Ms. Lagwen said that some people defecate on the sand where they would dig for water which led to common diseases like diarrhoea and typhoid in villages9 and 10.
Rose, a resident of Village 9, noted that sometimes children hardly eat their first meal at 3 pm when there isn’t water for cooking especially when the reservoirs are empty of water which are routinely filled up by water bowser trucks.
However, with the donation made by the UBC Equatorial South Sudan Coca Cola, Mr. Rogers Mugenyi, the Emergency Water Officer of Water Mission Uganda, said Village 9 and 10 will then be able to provide 20 litres of water per person per day upon completion.
He confirmed that Village 9 and 10 compared to all other settlements at Bidi Bidi had water stress because they were relying on water trucking that was expensive and very unsustainable.
“Water bowser trucks collect water from a very far distance and fill up the temporary tanks and it is treated before supplying. And the beneficiaries may go up to six hours waiting for water every day and that’s why UNHCR and Coca Cola invited Water Mission to construct a sustainable water system,” Mr. Mugenyi said.
He noted the two motorized systems in the settlement will be able to supply water in a radius of 9 Kilometers across the crisis areas and will address the persisting water crisis in the settlements.
Mr. Mugenyi said the development which is at 50 percent nearing completion are expected to start operating in May this year when constructing a pipeline that will help to distribute water from the pumps to the beneficiaries are completed.
Ms. Maureen Kyomuhendo, the Public Affairs and Communications Manager of Coca Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda, said women suffer most because of the bear the task of looking for the wellbeing of the house including access to water for the families.
She thanked Equatorial Coca Cola of Sudan Sudan and UNHCR for working together with Coca Cola in Uganda in an ongoing project to provide clean water to the refugees and safe water to communities facing water crisis across the region.
According to Ms. Acacio Jafar Juliao, the Head of Sub Office of the UN Refugee Agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR in Yumbe currently refugees access to water is at 16 Litres per person per day, which he says is above the emergency threshold by a litre.
Ms. Acacio said providing water to refugees above the emergency standard is an indicator of improvement showing that persistent water crisis in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement will soon be eliminated.
Bidi Bidi refugee settlement measuring about 240,000 square kilometres has a population of about 206,000 to 207,000 refugees and it is one of the biggest refugee settlements in Uganda.