VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Opening the “largest water system for any refugee camp in the world”
February 11, 2013 by Sophia Jones-Mwangi
|Members of an IRC water and sanitation team in Ethiopia test a tapstand in Bokolmayo refugee camp by flushing the pipes. The taps are connected to a recently-built system that supplies clean drinking water to a camp complex that is home to tens of thousands of refugees who fled drought and conflict in Somalia. Photo: The IRC|
The International Rescue Committee supplies water to three of the five Dolo Ado refugee camps in Ethiopia; “Largest water system for any refugee camp in the world”
ADDIS ABABA—The International Rescue Committee officially opened two permanent water systems for Bokolmayo and Kobe camps in Ethiopia’s Dolo Ado complex, home to tens of thousands of Somali refugees.
“The Bokolmayo water system is the largest and most complex water delivery system for any refugee camp in the world,” says David Murphy, who runs the IRC’s programs in Ethiopia. “It pumps water from a river 18 kilometers (more than 11 miles) from the camp, has a permanent treatment plant to clean the water, two pump-boosting stations, and finally another 19 kilometers of distribution piping within the camp.” In all, the system employs 37 kilometers of pipeline. “This is quite a feat of engineering,” notes Murphy, “especially in a remote region” on the border with Somalia.
The IRC is the leading water supply agency in Dolo Ado, where more than 184,300 refugees have settled, with Bokolmayo far exceeding the 30,000-person limit established when that camp was set up in 2009. “When the area began receiving a large influx of refugees from Somalia in 2011, we played a large role in providing water to the newly arrived refugees,” recalls Murphy.
|The Bokolmayo water system begins at the Genale River. Water pumped here is treated and delivered through a pipeline to a refugee camp more than 11 miles away.|
The IRC worked closely with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs throughout the construction process, carefully identifying sites for the various system components, including accessible locations for water points. Bokolmayo’s geography presented unique challenges: the terrain is rocky and arid, making drilling and pipeline construction particularly difficult. Heavy rains often wash out main roads, limiting access to the construction site while increasing the difficulty of delivering clean water by truck. Skilled workers were hard to find, and the camp’s remote location complicated the procurement of materials.
“Completion of the Bokolmayo permanent water system means that the majority of Bokolmayo residents live within 200 meters of an IRC-built water point,” says Murphy. The system also serves approximately 4,700 host community members living in the surrounding villages, where the IRC has installed six water points.
Now camp residents and local community members are able to collect potable water for household use on a daily basis, reducing the risk of water-borne diseases like diarrhea and contributing to ongoing hygiene and sanitation efforts in and around the camp.
|Water flows into a sedimentation tank at the treatment plant to be purified before it makes its way through pipes to reservoirs above Bokolmayo camp.|
Photo: The IRC
|The three storage tanks together hold 460,000 liters (121,519 gallons) of clean water for refugees living in the camp and their Ethiopian neighbors. |
|Refugees draw water from one of 63 water points located around the camp. “Completion of the Bokolmayo permanent water system means that the majority of Bokolmayo residents live within 200 meters of an IRC-built water point,” says the IRC's David Murphy. |
Photo: The IRC
Bokolmayo and Kobe water systems by the numbers
31 water points, serving 31,656 refugees in Kobe
2,100 Kobe host community members served through 5 water points
63 water points serving 40,423 refugees in Bokolmayo
4,700 Bokolmayo host community members served through 6 water points
18 kilometers of pressured pipeline in Bokolmayo
460,000 liters of clean water held in Bokolmayo’s reservoirs; 276,000 liters held in Kobe
40 persons trained in the operation and maintenance of permanent water systems
A story from Bokolomayo: Safe access to safe water
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