Water crisis hits Gihembe refugee camp

Congolese refugees at Gihembe Camp in North Province have decried the incessant shortage of water that broke out two months ago, saying it has made their lives hard.

Congolese refugees at Gihembe Camp in North Province have decried the incessant shortage of water that broke out two months ago, saying it has made their lives hard.

Officials at the camp that is currently home to more than 11,000 refugees, said the crisis started in January.

Marc Munyakabuga, the camp leader, said poor sanitation arising from the shortage of water has led to the increase in diarrhoea cases.

He said the camp has 20 water stations, each with at least five taps. Of these, according to Munyakabuga, only one is operational. He attributed this to the water pump that stopped working.

“Can you imagine a population of 11,065 fetching from one tap? Can you imagine how much it costs just to have a drop of water?” Munyakabuga posed.

Queuing

He said it is a common sight to find more than 300 people queuing for water from the only functional tap.

“I do not have the energy to scramble for water alongside kids. I have to send my kids who sometimes miss class because they have to line-up for long waiting for water,” a woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

She added that the little water the children bring home has to be used sparingly.

“I no longer bath regularly. Washing clothes has become a luxury. What matters here is to find water for drinking and cooking,” a mother carrying her child said.

The head of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Gicumbi, Guy Rufin Guernas, said they had two trucks to supplement the water pump but one of the trucks had an accident which further deepened the crisis.

Guernas acknowledged the quantity is not enough but added the sole tap plus the one operational water tank make at least refugees have little water to drink and cook.

He said in collaboration with EWSA, they are planning to use a new system of spreading water across the camp after a new water booster is installed.

Guernas said he had requested for a generator from the UNHCR head office to help while he awaits for a long-term solution.

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