Providing safe, sustainable water to displaced families in Sulaymaniyah

A borehole under construction in Ashti Camp © UNICEF/Iraq/2016/Niles

“The water quality is very good. We don’t face any problems that we can’t solve.”

Sama lives in Qoratu camp for internally displaced people in Sulaymaniyah governorate, situated just 25 kilometers from the Iranian border. He’s one of several volunteers working daily in the camp, ensuring that families stay healthy by reducing the risk from water-borne diseases.

Since the camp opened it’s become home to nearly 500 families who fled conflict in Anbar. At the moment many of the camp’s residents have their water trucked in, but with generous support from the Government of Japan, boreholes are being drilled and water tanks installed — a much more sustainable option. Qoratu is one of three camps in the area where UNICEF is overseeing the construction of high-quality water infrastructure with Japanese support.

Sama, a volunteer in Qoratu camp. © UNICEF/Iraq/2016/Niles

Volunteers such as Sama also help educate families on how to reduce disease through appropriate sanitation and hygiene. A volunteer committee meets weekly to assess the latest threats and the best way to counter them — crucial in a crowded camp setting in a cholera-endemic country facing a protracted security crisis.

A couple of hours drive north of Qoratu, Ashti camp is transforming into the largest camp for displaced people in the country. There are about 7,000 residents here, but when it’s finished it will be home to up to 17,000 people.

When the borehole is complete and the camp is full, families will have an ample supply of safe water and volunteers such as Sama will continue to ensure that families are protected from disease.

“When I started, most families did not have the information to stay clean in this new camp environment, but now people have changed their behaviour,” he says. “Last year there was no cholera in the camps and very few cases of water borne diseases.”

Thanks to the work of Sama and others like him, it is likely to stay that way.

Chris Niles is a Consultant with UNICEF Iraq.

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