A newly constructed water treatment plant in Burundi has been launched to help refugees living at Mahama camp in Kirehe District.
The plant, with capacity to produce 1,200m3 per day pumped from Akagera River, replaces a 900m3 temporary plant that could not satisfy the demand, causing insufficient and delayed water supply.
The new permanent plant will be providing 20 litres per person per day as per international standards.
The project was implemented by Oxfam though the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH), in partnership with DFID and the government, among other stakeholders.
Patrick Wajero, the Oxfam country director, said the plant whose, works started in April, cost 650,000 pounds.
It will serve 60,000 people in the camp and surrounding communities.
“We wanted to make the system more sustainable. The temporary plant we had was labour intensive, costly but the new one has a high tech system with automatic protection and control system. It can operate for 20 years,” he said.
“We work hard to ensure sanitation is maintained. We have started to extend water provision to the host community where we are going to cover over 5000 people and 13,000 students by March next year,” he added.
The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, said the water supply will enhance livelihoods of the population in the camp and its environs.
“When the camp was established a year ago, the biggest challenge was to obtain water for the big population at this camp. The project is a demonstration of the commitment to the integration approach to the refugee management… it comes following a school that was built recently to serve the refugees in this camp,” she said.
He added: “This plant will enhance sanitation, hygiene and life at the camp. It is a sustainable solution given the increasing population and there was no other appropriate way of obtaining water for them.”
Saber Azam, UNHCR country representative, welcomed the plant.
“Initially, we had to hire tanks to bring water from far away. Then, we tried to dig boreholes, six times in vain, because this place is rocky. Then we came up with a temporary water treatment system but it was not effective either,” he said.
The envoy added: “Since we have to ensure that the water provided to the population is healthy and adequate, we had to devise a plan for this permanent cleaning water system. Everything is now automated and the standard is the highest you can get. We are sure of the quality and the quantity,” he said.
Residents of Mahama camp welcomed the plant which they said will address sanitation issues.
“When we arrived here, there was little unclean water, a situation that led to many people contracting different diseases. People used to queue at the well from morning to evening. It was so distressing. We hope that, from now on, water problems will be a thing of the past,” said Eloge Rugemangabo, the representative of the refugees in the camp.
“We traveled long distances to fetch water and spent long hours looking for water, sometimes in vain. Now it’s been brought closer to us and you can carry two containers at the same time. We hope to improve sanitation in our homes,” said Speciose Minani, another refugee.
Mahama refugee camp is home to more than 50,000 Burundian refugees.