It’s been ten days since I arrived here in Jamam camp, and I haven’t seen rain like this yet. Every evening out here the clouds gather and rise along the horizons, putting on a light and thunder show until the rains reach us, later at night. Today as I was setting up a surface water treatment unit at a kheffir* near the camp, I could see a thunderhead forming to the south so grey and immense, it seemed to make up the entire height of the sky.
We had to pack up quick, as the winds picked up suddenly and the sky blackened before the rain. It’s still going as I write this, several hours later. Most of our compound is flooded now, and I’m filled with dread when I think of what it’s like in the camp. The refugee camps in this region have suffered immensely in the rainy season. This whole region is a vast wetland of the Nile – beautiful in a way, but a terrible place for a refugee camp.
Waterborne diseases have exacted a great toll on the population of the camp. In the previous months, diarrhoea was one of the primary threats. Right now, there’s Hepatitis E spreading in the camp, which is really tragic as there isn’t much that the medical team can do for those really hit hard by it. The past couple of weeks have been grim in the hospital, with several patients dying in the wards. Since there isn’t much that can be done in terms of curative care, we’ve been intensifying efforts with the other actors here on the ground to prevent disease before it can strike.
Azat, the water and sanitation (watsan) specialist focusing on the camp has just completed a massive program of latrine building and hand-washing promotion. Eve, our watsan focal point, has been coordinating safe water supply in the camp with the other actors. She sent me out today to set up the same kind of surface water treatment unit that I had used during the floods in Pakistan 2010, to increase the supply of safe water in the camp as other sources go offline in the coming weeks. We hope that these works will do something to limit the spread of Hep E, diarrhoea, and other waterborne illnesses, now we just have to wait and see.
*A kheffir is a small surface water body where rain collects during the rainy season, that people use as a source of household water.