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Health care

Blog: IDPs survive on 7 liters of water per week in Alindao

The small town of Alindao, in the east of the Central African Republic, lies on a humanitarian frontline and harbours tens of thousands of displaced persons (IDPs). From here Cordaid implements an emergency health and nutrition program in the area. Julie Love, our Health care Program Officer, is currently in Alindao and reports from the field.

This blog is written by Julie Love, Cordaid Health care Program Officer. Julie is specialised in women’s health, health financing (PBF) and health investment projects in Central African Republic, Burundi, Rwanda, Haiti, Sierra Leone.

The temperature is around 37 degrees. My shirt sticks to my back and my head is throbbing. Simplice, Cordaid’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer in Alindao, threads his way deftly through the rough thatched huts and dusty tarpaulins over twigs that shelter 24,000 displaced people in the cathedral compound of Alindao, 466 kilometres from the capital Bangui.

Simplice knows the camp like the back of his hand. Until May last year, Muslim and Christian communities here lived peacefully side by side. Then one of the ‘generals’ of the Seleka – an alliance of rebel militia factions whose members are mostly Muslims and who overthrew the Central African government in 2013 –  decided to set up his headquarters here. A massacre ensued, more than one hundred people were killed, many with extreme violence. Mothers were raped and fathers shot dead in front of their children. Hundreds of houses were burned.

Seeking refuge on the Cathedral compound

The terrified Christian community, around 14,000 people, sought refuge in the Cathedral compound. Since then others fleeing from the surrounding countryside have swelled the numbers to 24,000. Twenty Cordaid staff members and their families are among them.

From dawn, women and children form long queues at the water points.

Julie Love

Cordaid opened an office in Alindao in April 2016 to implement an emergency health and nutrition program here with funding from UK’s DFID. There were no other aid organisations in the area and when the crisis came, despite the danger, the staff stuck it out. START fund provided 119.921 € for water and sanitation, Cordaid used 152.208 € of its own funds and the Common Humanitarian Fund contributed 327.562 €

We do what we can. But it’s not enough

Together we do whatever we can. And it does make a difference. We dug 300 latrines, built 150 showers, five new water sources, four of which were wells, one spring and seven water distribution points with taps and tanks. But it has not been enough for all the displaced people.

Alindao IDP camp

The IDP camp near the cathedral in Alindao. Simplice, Cordaid’s WASH officer, stands in the middle, carrying a shoulder bag (© Cordaid / Julie Love)

Other organisations like the Central African Red Cross, JUPIDEC, DGNH (Direction General National Hydraulique) came in. But most of them only had funding for 45 days. Without funds for maintenance, the latrines and water points they installed are rapidly falling into disrepair. To make matters worse, the rains have not been good this year. From dawn, women and children form long queues at the water points.

After only one hour in the heat, back at the office, a half liter of water barely takes the edge off my thirst.

Julie Love

Funds are desperately needed for generators, for repairs to keep them running and for fuel which has to come from Bangui, hundreds of kms and a full 2-days drive away. And there is just not enough water.  In one block 500 people share 2 ‘showers’ and 6 latrines. The spectre of diarrhoea and cholera epidemics looms large.

IDP camp CAR

One of two ‘showers’ for 500 displaced persons (© Cordaid / Julie Love)

This week people have had only 7 litres per person. The humanitarian norm is 15 liters per person per day. And the dry season lasts until the end of April. “The water will be finished by mid-March”, says Simplice. After only one hour in the heat, back at the office, a half liter of water barely takes the edge off my thirst.

Read more about what Cordaid does in the Central African Republic.