Providing water to save lives at Dadaab refugee camp

A newly arrived refugee from Somalia collects water in Dadaab last year

In the middle of 2011, East Africa experienced one of the worst droughts for 60 years. Along with political unrest in Somalia, where famine was also declared in some regions, it fueled a tremendous increase in refugees fleeing to the three camps of Dadaab. There are now 460,000 people living in Dadaab, making it Kenya’s third largest settlement.

One of the most immediate needs for new refugees is water. When they arrive, after walking for days on end, most are in desperate need of hydration. CARE has been at the forefront of ensuring refugees have access to adequate water supplies. Before the emergency, CARE was able to provide an average of 18 litres of water per person per day for drinking, cooking and bathing. But this has not always been easy.

Water is provided through the construction of tap stands, boreholes and by water tanks. In normal circumstances we can ensure that no more than 250 refugees ever use one tap stand. But with the crisis came challenges. Refugees settled on the outskirts of the camps, where CARE traditionally did not have any water provision facilities and as more and more people arrived we had to move fast to ensure families could access water and to prevent outbreaks of disease.

CARE staff worked hard, first using water tankers to bring water to people in areas without water points,  then constructing new water lines and tap stands, as well as refurbishing boreholes that were over 20 years old. CARE’s interventions ensured that no refugee had to walk more than 500 metres to find water. This is especially beneficial for women and girls, who are often tasked to search for water, food and firewood for their families. CARE was also able to ensure that each refugee was continuously able to access the global minimum standard of 15 litres of water per person per day.

We were in desperate need of water. If CARE did not help us, and give us water, life’s most basic need, many lives would have been lost.

"Even though a year has passed since the crisis, we still talk about CARE every day, and we are all very grateful," says Zeynab Mahmud Hassan, a refugee from the Dagahaley camp.

Following the 2011 influx of refugees the Kenyan Government opened two new camps to relieve congestion in Dadaab. CARE has worked tirelessly from the opening of these camps to provide water at the highest standards to every single individual.

As we continue to defend dignity and fight poverty, we are pleased to say that we have been able to return to our standard of providing 18 litres of water per person per day.

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.