CAMEROON: BRINGING DRINKING WATER TO VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
Since 2013, the actions of Boko Haram have caused great troubles in the Lake Chad region. The far north of Cameroon has not been spared, and it has hosted over 86,000 (1) Nigerian refugees fleeing for their lives.
The summer of 2015 was marked by a resurgence of terrorist attacks in Cameroon in the areas on the border with Nigeria, thus triggering massive population movements: almost 200,000 Cameroonians fled their home villages to find refuge in towns and villages further away from the borders, particularly in Mora.
These movements of people, both refugees and internally displaced persons, have had dramatic consequences on living conditions in these host towns. Resources that were already limited have become scarce, preventing new arrivals from meeting their most basic needs such as drinking and eating.
In order to support these people fleeing traumatic events and their hosts, Première Urgence Internationale has carried out a project with the support of DG ECHO (2) (European Union) in order to provide them with a twofold response: offering them access to water and food, while strengthening their resilience. The response was organised in two stages. Firstly by responding to the emergency and to pressing needs, then by providing lasting support by helping these populations towards a sustainably improved situation and towards independence.
Photo: Water carriers after the training – Mora
In order to provide a rapid solution, a water carrying system was implemented enabling almost 6,500 people in an extremely vulnerable situation and physically incapable of accessing drinking water sources due to their remoteness, to receive three litres of drinking water per day, per person, while they wait for Première Urgence Internationale to rehabilitate neighbouring water points for sustainable access to safe water.
Thirty young people from the host community were trained in good hygiene practice and provided with equipment to deliver drinking water to the most destitute using a tricycle. Their role was not limited to the delivery of clean water but they also acted as spokespeople, passing on messages to raise awareness about hygiene, particularly on the transportation, storage and consumption of water in order to improve the knowledge and practices of the beneficiary households.
This system makes it possible to reach the households, even in remote areas, and offers a good alternative to ‘water trucking’ by tanker truck which is very expensive and requires complex logistics.
Tests were carried out on water within the households in order to ensure the purity of the water distributed and to avoid any health risks for the population.
This action also had positive effects on the economy in the area, which was devastated following the degeneration of the security situation. The water was distributed using a coupon system to prevent the circulation of liquid currency, thus limiting fraud and ensuring the safety of both the beneficiaries and carriers. The water carriers exchanged coupons collected from households following delivery, in return for their payment. This system made it possible to start revitalising the area by injecting money into the local economy.
(1) UNHCR statistics -15 November 2016
(2) Name of the project ‘Multisectoral response for displaced populations and host populations, impacted by the security crisis in the far north of Cameroon’ in November