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The scramble for basic needs in an African refugee camp

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Added 19th April 2017 11:52 AM

In a humanitarian crisis, good health comes when every basic need is in place

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By Simon J Mone

The scramble for basic needs in a camp is a difficult situation on our hands! It is one of the most difficult pieces of puzzle that we have to deal with. Remember, it is a condition-enforced situation. It is about an influx of large numbers of people, who have been driven out of their homes by an emergency. 

Look at this migration story. It will probably be with us for the long term because of the ever increasing chaos everywhere in this world. Where displaced people aggregate in makeshift settlement facilities meant to only provide temporary settlement. With limited basic needs.

It is the kind of condition that we are enduring these days. Here we are, helpless, and cannot provide every basic necessity to make people continue enjoying their God-given gift, to live freely and enjoy these basic rights. 

This is because the huge numbers far outweigh the capacity to provide. Not only is the basic need situation dire, the overall humanitarian situation leaves us requiring more. Displaced people are left to scuttle for limited hand-outs in order to realise their rights to basic needs. But hand-outs they crave for are not sustainable. 

We discuss the basic needs situation of thousands of people who run away from trouble and converge at refugee settlement camps with arms wide open. Take a case of; attempting to supply water for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in a small place. That particular water source is made busy for the better part of the day. 

The sound of the only water pump meant to probably give water to only a few hundred is constant. As if to suggest that pump mechanics must be offered full-time jobs to do repairs each time that it breaks.

And the long queues never end as people struggle to attempt to get near the WHO requirement. That each person to access 20 litres of clean, safe and potable water per day.

To attempt to reach this aim, a community of hundreds of thousands of people make water and sanitation experts work off their minds. 

With the unpredictable weathers of now-a-days, we cannot speak with certainty that the water springs will continuously ooze out water.

They dry up and thus need options. And water levels from shallow wells drop below the ground surface. So people suffer the effect of severe drought. 

At available water points, long queues make water-point conflicts inevitable. As some impatient water users think they should get water ahead of the rest. And because of competition people are forced to find alternative sources. 

They end up at even dirty water sources. And even end up competing with host communities for water at nearby village points. This year marks exactly 25 years of the anniversary of World Water Day.

It is a day gazetted by the United Nations to bring awareness of the importance of clean and safe water. And also to advocate for sustainable management of waters, so that clean water is available to support better health.

In a humanitarian crisis, good health comes when every basic need is in place. There is the issue of gender-based violence. Providing basic needs to needy communities require that gender issues are considered.

All these must be prioritized in humanitarian action in order to restore some hope and create a lasting impact on vulnerable people.

Emergencies are causing heavy burdens on available basic needs. And deprives people the home environment that they deserve. It denies them the chance of making a living. So a needy person becomes a destitute.

So as the scramble for basic needs continue, refugee host communities ought to be charitable enough to share whatever they have with displaced people.

Writer is a civil engineer

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