Submitted by: Mandy Goksu, Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships, Water4
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
In under thirty days, Water4 and its local enterprise partner AEDR, drilled eight wells to benefit the lives of 2,400 people in Bunia, DRC. The project serves Persons of Concern fleeing violence and conflict, and who are at a high risk of contracting disease.
Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Commenced in June, 2019 and ongoing. AEDR plans to construct another twenty-five wells in Bunia by the end of 2019.
The goal of this project was to provide a rapid response to the long-term needs of recently internally displaced persons (IDPs) or Persons of Concern (PoCs) in DRC. In June, 2019, violence broke out in the Ituri province when rebel groups began systematically killing – triggering a new humanitarian crisis which has left approximately 360,000 people displaced. As people have settled into makeshift camps throughout the region, the lack of safe water has created an urgent need for a humanitarian response. In other areas, host communities are taking in PoCs, as needed. For example, Telega Village in Northeast Bunia experienced a 400% population increase, as displaced people fled the nearby Djungu Territory. Communities across Bunia needed to expand their safe water supply quickly, especially given the high incidence of Cholera and Ebola in the region. (Where the second worst outbreak of Ebola in history has occurred.)
- Water4 (A member of the Millennium Water Alliance)
- AEDR is led by Managing Director, Benjamin Liringa, and has twenty-three employees and three drilling teams. The employees manage administration and finance, drilling, WASH, discipleship, and agriculture. Since inception, AEDR has drilled ninty-four boreholes, serving over 89,300 people living in the Ituri Province, and since inception has trained around 30,000 people in WaSH. AEDR has also trained 20 WaSH trainers and partnered with two primary schools for WaSH training.
- Pacha Soap (Support partner to AEDR)
Challenges and how they were overcome
1) Transportation in DRC is a constant challenge due to poor and non-existent infrastructure. Roads are difficult to navigate and are often unsafe. The AEDR team is sometimes forced to rely on river transportation to reach very rural communities they serve, using canoes to transport parts needed for water projects. Transportation to Telega Village, like other places, was challenging, particularly when the roads were muddy due to rain. Thankfully, AEDR has been able to navigate the poor infrastructure to travel back and forth to the village.
2) Operating in areas experiencing conflict and disease outbreaks is never easy, and security has been a major concern. The AEDR team traveled back and forth to Telega Village and stayed within the IDP camp while installing wells and hand pumps. The IDP camp housed individuals and families who had experienced trauma and significant loss and were dealing with the emotional and mental consequences of this. The IDPs were very suspicious of outsiders, including the AEDR team, and the camp was ripe with violence. One night during AEDR’s stay in the IDP camp in Telega Village, the IDPs discovered rebel members had infiltrated the camp with the goal of mapping out the camp, to share it with another rebel group. This incident was very concerning to the AEDR team, who felt their lives were in danger. Thankfully, local authorities intervened before anyone was hurt.
3) It can be nearly impossible to deploy sustainable solutions in conflict situations, and yet sustainability is necessary for long-term change and integration of IDPs into their host communities. AEDR achieves sustainability through their service delivery model, using funds paid by communities to cover maintenance and repairs. However, with the 400% population growth Telega Village has seen through the influx of IDPs – the village chief requested a waiver of payment from AEDR. The socio-economic level of the village has deteriorated with the presence of IDPs, and they are struggling to meet people’s daily needs. AEDR has reached an agreement, whereby the whole community will contribute to the service contract fee after six months of a fee waiver. Given the circumstances, AEDR accepted the request, and set up a local management committee to collaborate with AEDR’s technical team. This collaboration will provide ongoing monitoring of the hand pump to ensure continued functionality.
4) When AEDR first responded to the crisis, it was difficult to determine the most appropriate place to install the first well and hand pump. The local villagers wanted the water point to be installed in the middle of their community, which was very far from the IDP camp. This would not have been ideal for the IDPs. AEDR spent more than two weeks negotiating with village elders to reach an acceptable decision for both parties. The final decision was to drill one well just a few meters from the IDP camp, where it can serve both villagers and IDPs. The need for safe water remains high in many IDP camps around Bunia, as well as in other areas of the Ituri Province such as in the Mahagi, Lopa, Iga Barriere, Kasenyi, and Chomia regions, where there is a high concentration of IDPs.
How they were overcome:
The above challenges were overcome by working directly with local community leaders and households to identify the primary need, establish trust, and then to communicate the needs and proposed solutions directly with the president of the village’s Local Management Committee.
AEDR played a liaison role throughout this project, ensuring all stakeholders were involved and felt included in the community water projects. AEDR’s long-time presence in Bunia created a foundation of trust among local communities, and this local presence played an important part in their ability to navigate challenging circumstances. Had the team been unfamiliar with the area and not understood the local culture, it would have been far more challenging for them to implement a solution that benefited a diverse and complex group of stakeholders. The permanent follow up by AEDR will continue to be helpful for the sustainability of this project.
Results of the Good Practice
- 2,400 people received sustainable safe water services within their community.
- Host communities have additional sustainable water services and contracts in place for continuous maintenance in case repairs are needed.
- Safe water reduces the risks of cyclical poverty and malnutrition in the IDP camps and host communities. Currently, 43 percent of children living in DRC suffer from malnutrition, including stunted physical growth and lower cognitive development. A 2017 WaSH Poverty Diagnostic published by the World Bank showed that children under five years old in DRC who have access to uncontaminated, safely managed water, see a significant reduction in such physical and cognitive impairments.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
By responding to the need for safe water and delivering water quickly to the entire population in need, the project helped share local government responsibility to meet the needs of the shifting population at a time when public resources are under duress. AEDR also helped to share the burden of the host communities. These communities did not feel the strain of new persons of concern on their water systems because additional volumes of water became available quickly. The project also safeguarded the health of the entire population, given WaSH services are critical for stopping the spread of infectious diseases like Cholera and Ebola, among others.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
One mother who recently arrived in the camps shared, “We thought we would finally be safe when we got here, but then learned there was no water for us to drink.” Persons of concern deal with significant trauma. Being able to meet their basic physical needs is a critical part of their ability to improve self-reliance in other parts of their daily routines, including hygiene, cooking, and washing.