A couple of months back in May, I had written to you about the mass population displacement due to the movement of armed groups in the mountains. Many of the families come from mainly three camps of villages – Nyange, Bibwe and Kitso. They have now settled in Mpati which is a village we work in. The new déplaces [displaced people] are located mainly on the hills around our Health Centre and at a nearby UN base. Our team was tasked with performing a rapid initial assessment of the needs of these déplaces. At that time, our outreach workers had helped us with the population count and latrine assessment. Our Watsan team assessed the water sources. In May, we counted 1,830 people. They were using the 4 latrines of our health centre and a contaminated water source at the bottom of a valley.
As a result of the exercise and community questionnaire we administered, we were able to generate a significant amount of data and transmit the needs of the population to several other NGOs and WASH (water/sanitation) actors. Since then, we had performed a soap distribution and constructed 40 latrines. Solidarité, a WASH actor, constructed another 112 latrines, built showers, dug up waste areas and rehabilitated the water source.
Our work is never finished. Our outreach workers performed another population count in June. The population of déplaces has since swelled to 6,320 people. The ratio of people to latrines is 41.6 people per latrine. With only one water source available, each person has only an average of 4.2L of water per day for all their needs (drinking, cooking and cleaning). Just as a reference point, we use guidelines set out by the Sphere Project. This project was launched in 1997 to develop a set of universal minimum standards in core areas of humanitarian assistance. It recommends that there should only be 250 people per tap and calculates that the total basic water needs per person is 7.5-15L per day. It recommends that there be not more than 20 persons per toilet but allows 50 persons per toilet in the acute phase.
We are also struggling with the dynamics of Mpati. The village Mpati has an existing IDP [Internally Displaced People] camp, Camp Mpati, of 14,714 people. This is an officially recognized camp and hence the IDPs qualify for aid. Within the new déplaces, only the group from Nyange qualify for aid as they come from another officially recognized camp. The remaining déplaces do not qualify for aid, in the sense that they are not on an official list when there is a distribution of food and non-food items. Due to insecurity in the area, they have not been able to go to their fields or pasture lands. Their situation has become more desperate with time. Some families have been forced to steal from their neighbours and food from the nearby fields. This has created a tension in the camp.
I often throw up my hands in despair. Just when we intervene and things start looking up, new problems crop up. I once asked Claudio why he works for MSF. He shrugged and said…’so I can use my skills with the right people in the right place’.