South Sudan Emergency Aid: The Urgent Need for Water at Kakuma Refugee Camp

Since December 2013, the war in South Sudan has raged on and the turmoil continues. Many continue to flee into the into neighboring Kenya, where the Kakuma refugee camp is located. From February 3rd to the 8th, Naoki UMEDA and Daijo TSUCHIKAWA were AAR Japan's staff on the ground, sent to give emergency assistance and conduct research. Despite the swelling number of refugees, the camp suffers from severe water shortages. This is UMEDA reporting.

People Going Without Water in Severe Heat

AAR Japan's Naoki UMEDA (right) listening to details from a local aid group (Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. February 4th, 2014.)
From February 2nd, ongoing talks with both refugees and aid workers have made it clear that the need for water is the most urgent issue at hand.
Since December 15th last year, the number of South Sudanese who have arrived in Kakuma has already reached 14,000 <UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), 2014/2/5> . Many have endured a long journey, only to arrive and find they will likely receive below 10 liters of water on average per day, per person. In contrast, a single Japanese person uses around 300 liters per day (according to figures from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism), making the daily available amount in Kakuma only 1/30 to that of Japan. It is this small amount that must be used for everything from drinking water, to cooking and washing.

In the tent areas for refugees, there is only one 5,000 liter or 10,000 liter water tank installed per 1,000 people (Kakuma, Kenya, February 9th, 2014.)
During the day time, the blistering heat means that whether inside or outside the tents, conditions are sweltering for both children and adults. Moreover, fierce dust clouds mean that flurries of sand cling to the refugees’ bodies, resulting in children complaining of skin abnormalities and eye infections. Even in such punishing conditions, there are still a great number who have no choice but to go a whole day without water.
In response to the newest influx of refugees, a new living quarter was built within the camp. This sector was separated into 13 blocks, allowing 1,000 people to live in each district. Each block was to get its own 10,000 liter or 5,000 liter water tank, but only 10 have thus far received them. Three areas still remain without a tank.

Water Shortage Sparking a New Conflict

Daijo TSUCHIKAWA (left) listening to the stories of various refugees. All are emphasizing the water shortage (Kakuma, Kenya, February 6th, 2014.)
Although the tanks are refilled daily once or twice by three UNHCR water tank trucks, there are several problems. The trucks experience breakdowns, and have limits to the number of round trips they can make inside Kakuma, meaning that enough water is not reaching the tanks themselves. The UNHCR is taking measures such as purchasing new water tank trucks - endeavoring to quickly resolve the water shortage. However, such arrangements take time.

In addition, each tank possesses only two faucets, leading to long daily queues for water. There are people who wait for three hours and obtain almost next to nothing. Consequently, there have been quarrels between those of different ethnicities and nationalities, with the water shortage developing into a reason for greater conflict between the various peoples.

AAR has taken this situation on board, and aims to give maximum priority to assist in the installing of water tanks and the arrangements for water tank trucks. Preparations are currently under way. Amidst all this, a new necessity inside the camp has also become evident - that of education. AAR also intends to partake in providing support in this area.
Only 2 faucets for each tank. People carry 20 liter plastic tanks, waiting their turn. (Kakuma, Kenya, February 9th, 2014.)

Long lines for those waiting for water. Some wait 3 hours and receive nothing (Kakuma, Kenya, February 4th, 2014.)
People waiting in line for rations from the WFP (World Food Programme), supplied once every 2 weeks (Kakuma, Kenya, February 5th, 2014.)
Young people boiling and eating supplied sorghum, a type of grain. A lack of water even for cooking (Kakuma, Kenya, February 5th, 2014.)
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Naoki UMEDA: South Sudan Office
AAR Japan South Sudan Office: Naoki UMEDA has worked in AAR’s South Sudan office since August 2011. After graduating junior college, she majored in development studies and African studies at a British university. She then joined AAR Japan after working at a private enterprise and doing volunteer work in Uganda. Her hometown is in Aichi.
※Reporter profile as of the date of the article.