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In Exodus: As Simple as H2O » Women's Courage

In Exodus: As Simple as H2O

March 7th, 2013 by kawoods Leave a reply »

Author’s Note: Hello readers! Last week, only half of my blog post uploaded. I will be uploading the second half after this post. Thanks for following along on this journey!


Throughout this blog I have often commented that fundamental aspects of refugee camps, like layout, are essential in consideration of the needs and needed protections for refugee women. We have already seen that the need for firewood increases women’s threat of sexual violence by taking them outside of the perimeter of the camp. This week we will briefly explore interventions through water provision, and the impact and implications for female refugees.

There are many organizations working to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services within camps. Though women’s safety may not be at the forefront of pushes for these interventions, the implication of their implementation on women’s health and safety is promising. One organization, Oxfam has been very active in the refugee situation and migration caused by conflict in Sudan. Oxfam has been focusing on interventions that not only provide refugees with better access to essential resources, but also curb the spread of disease. Oxfam has helped the Upper Nile River refugees to build their own water towers from scratch, providing them with a clean, convenient water source, helping about 30,00 people since 2012. The organization also constructed water wells in northern Sri Lanka, benefitting 80,000 people with a clean source of water. One resident of the camp in Sri Lanka stated:

My family and I have at last returned home to Mannar, after more than five years away. It has been very difficult for us, having to abandon our home, possessions and livelihoods. Clean water means I will no longer have to worry about my family drinking contaminated water.

Another attempt to provide clean water to refugees comes from the International Organization for Migration. The IOM, too, is focusing on Upper Nile refugee camps, with the purpose of introducing 366 new latrines. The latrines not only provide a clean water source, but also are expected to decrease incidence of Hepatitis E cases, quickly spread through consumption of water contaminated by feces. At least 3 camps in the Upper Nile has experienced Hepatitis E breakouts or another breakout of waterborne disease; there is an obvious need for intervention.

Now, is our turn to think critically. Though these interventions were not specifically designed to decrease the travel of female refugees to access water, we can still think about the implications for women’s safety. Cleaner, more accessible water lowers the chance of women leaving the camp to retrieve essential supplies. This in turn lowers her chance of being attacked or exploited under these conditions.

What other implications for women’s health and role in refugee camps can you see being a result of providing cleaner water to refugees?

Photos of Oxfam Interventions: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfam/sets/72157631587477695/




  1. Ben Rudolph says:

    Great post, and yes water is super important to women’s safety. I also think WASH programs need to start implementing household sanitation. Even if the water at the source is not contaminated, it can easily become contaminated. For example, when there is a bunch of mud in the water bucket a woman might use her hand to clean out the bucket, but since she’s also in charge of the children, she might have just been wiping her baby’s bottom. All of sudden you have contaminated water again.

  2. Sam says:

    This is such an important issue to discuss and I’m happy you took on the task of addressing it. Its really cool to hear about ways people are trying to improve situations for others, especially when one produces such a large impact. You could argue that the impact of bringing fresh water closer to the homes of people around the world is up in the ranks of being one of the most important health and safety issues communities face. When major progress is made in this field, its really cool to hear about. So, thanks for sharing this topic!

  3. Christina says:

    Kadesia, thanks for sharing! I found the Oxfam photos especially interesting and really helped me better understand what conditions are like in the refugee camps. I really liked the picture of Oxfam workers creating holes in the ground for access to clean water because although the background of the photo seemed so dull and dispiriting, it seemed like the workers were full of hope as they drilled holes. I find it shocking that interventions by Oxfam and other NGOs are even necessary regarding something as basic as access to clean, safe drinking water. Besides the obvious fact that clean water will decrease the prevalence of food-borne diseases, I think that access to clean water also just has a huge psychological impact on all the refugees. Women will no longer have to worry about something so prevalent and important in their lives as access to water.

  4. robsan24 says:

    Refugee camps seem to be an area that can be pretty greatly effected by some simple but clever interventions. As you mention above even just changing the layout of the camp can have a huge impact on safety. Besides lowering walking distances access to clean water will probably improve women’s lives in several ways. Because women are often the caretakers simply having a family that is not struggling with disease and illness (because they have clean water to drink) can have a tremendous impact on a woman’s life. Also having clean water during pregnancy can be very important to both maternal and child health. Overall very cool project from Oxfam.

    Also the pictures are great! I feel like photography always adds a powerful dynamic to storytelling.

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