By Nelly Muluka, IFRC
Access to safe water remains a major challenge for people affected by the ongoing Central African Republic crisis. These include internally displaced people living in camps, bushes and with host families, not only in the provinces, but in the capital as well. Many have resorted to drinking and using raw water for domestic purposes, exposing themselves to the risks of contracting water borne diseases.
With ongoing heavy rains in most parts of the country, access to safe water remains a concern. Indeed, some affected families have lost their houses and household items to the heavy rains, storms and floods.
Mapuka, is a mother of four lives in Beberati in the southwestern part of the country. Her home was one of more than 200 destroyed by recent bad weather. Mapuka says the impact of limited access to safe water goes beyond the threat of contracting water borne diseases.
“I was displaced in 2013 and came to live here with my extended family. We have had a problem of water ever since and more often, despite increased insecurity, we walk for long distances in search of water. My children do not go to school as they have to assist with fetching water,” says Mapuka, adding that at times all she does for a whole day is to go and look for water, which, she says, is not clean but is better than nothing.
This is a story repeated by many.
According to Jean Modessi Waguendo, Disaster Management Director with the Central African Red Cross, the problem has been made worse by the contamination of natural water sources and vandalism of man-made ones.
“At the height of the crisis, several dead bodies were deposited in community wells and in other natural sources of water, making them unfit for human use. Vandalism of hand pumps and destruction of boreholes has also contributed to the lack of access to safe water by people affected by the crisis,” says Waguendo.
A needs assessment conducted by Central African Red Cross personnel in 14 areas of the country in June cites access to safe water as a priority for people affected by the crisis and for host communities.
While basing his opinion on the field assessment mission, of which he was in charge, Waguendo says several parts of the country are also experiencing cases of people returning after having fled the country, hence the need to put safe water sources in place.
“The figures are high and the need is urgent. In general, at least 500 water sources in the 14 areas visited were either contaminated or dysfunctional,” says Waguendo.
Meanwhile, through an emergency appeal the National Society, enabled by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC,) continues to assist families affected by the crisis by providing aid in different domains including the water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) sector. To date, the Red Cross has supplied affected people in Bangui, Boda, Baoro, Beberati, Carnot and Zinga with jerry cans, buckets, aqua tabs for home purification of water, and, through volunteers, sensitized beneficiaries on WASH-related issues. The need, however, remains large, and more permanent solutions are required.