Motorized Boreholes Creating Jobs and Solving Clean Water Problem in Imvepi Refugee Settlement

Veterino is a pump attendant at the motoraised water system plant in Imvepi settlement..

When 29-year-old Asante left South Sudan with her 5 children, she left everything behind.

A refugee from village 15 zone 2, Asante started work on May 1, 2018, operating and managing the motorized borehole pump constructed by Oxfam at Jue village in Imvepi. Asante says Oxfam advertised the position and she applied, was recruited and given training on managing and operating the water pumps.

As a pump operator, Asante pumps water for supply and checks leakages along the pipelines and records the amount of water pumped on daily basis and has been able to gain more skills to operate the machines for pumping water. Asante says the belief that women cannot work in operating machines is just a myth because she has been trained and able to manage the work of a pump operator explaining the potential of women in doing work that is believed to be for men.

The decision taken by Oxfam to sink motorized boreholes in refugee settlements has positively contributed to solving the challenge of clean water supply and creating jobs for the refugees and host community members.

The project funded by European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid has changed the lives of communities and refugees. The water in Zone 2 covers over 4000 people and this number has increased according to Asante. She says the motorized facilities has solved the problem of safe water compared to the previous times when refugees newly arrived and would wait for water at water tanks supplied through water tracking.

One of the main challenges faced is leakages, however, when these are reported to the Oxfam office, the plumbers and engineers come in and do repairs. She has noted that most of the leakages are caused by breakages at the tap stands by the community members and users.

She also noted that when it rains, the consumption rate of water is low but during the dry season, consumption rate increases. When there is a lack of fuel and the weather turns cloudy, Asante pumps water and informs the communities to fetch face water before they switch off the pump station.

The chlorine mixed in the water for treatment is done according to the size of the tank. Asante says when the weather is cloudy, the solar system does not pump effectively, and they resort to using generators.

Veterino's story

Veterino was a peasant farmer before the water station pump was installed. He started work in Jue Village, zone 2 on September 1, 2017. “This work has changed my life; I am able to pay school fees; rare animals and my health status have improved as proof that I am now developing my livelihood using the money from the work,” Veterino explained.

When he was first recruited, he faced the challenge of misuse of taps by the refugees and communities. “The Locals and refugees believe the water pump stations and taps belong to Oxfam and not the communities making maintenance difficult,” Veterino said.

The most difficult time in maintaining the pump is doing the rainy season. It is difficult to drop chlorine, but the Oxfam office is always ready and willing to respond when we raise the challenge and they respond quickly.

The communities’ use of the taps is commendable but sometimes children misuse water. He advises parents to guide their children not to destroy the water points or misuse the water.

“We pump water based on the consumption rate. During the rainy season, the consumption rate drops and during dry season, the consumption rate increases” Veterino noted.

Sarah, a refugee mother and pump operator at Ure pump station in village 6, zone 1

As a woman, Sarah says people believed handling machines is work for men but now she is proof that women can do the work too. “The knowledge I have attained has helped me build more confidence and this empowers me to advise other women to join such jobs,” Sarah said.

She says she does the routine operation of the machine, chlorination, monitoring the system and the tap stands easily because she was well trained. The skills Sarah attained help in maintaining and assessing the systems and when there is a breakdown of the machines, she reports to the technical officers for repair.

Sarah says the tap stands are far from the water pump station making monitoring of leakages becomes difficult, but they have tried to liaise with water user committees who report any leakages or malfunction.

Felix a host community member and co-worker with Sarah has been able to participate in identifying mechanical problems and inform the engineers.

“I was trained in how to manage minor repairs and I was given a certificate,” Felix said.

He says at times low water supply arises when fuel funds are not remitted timely by UNHCR. The solar power system only depends on sunshine and when high sunshine is experienced, 135 cubic meters of water is pumped and add 20cubic meters using a generator.

On a daily basis, Felix must pump 150 cubic meters to cover 5.6km and supply 7 villages. “When there is a breakdown in the system causing leakages, we expect the communities to report the breakdown for repair.”

Richard Anguyo, the Oxfam Public health engineering Assistant says the Ore pump station was constructed in 2018 with funding from EU Humanitarian Aid and covers 9kms with a tank capacity of 80,000 litres and serves 13,000 people. Daily, it pumps 150,000 litres of water. The two operators at the pump station manage the operations, assisted by guards who protect the pump station.

Anguyo said the motorized water pumps have solved the water crisis in the refugee villages and zones compared to water tracking.

He notes that the malfunction challenges have been occasional and not frequent with the minor leakages being rectified in time. When the weather disrupts the pumping process, generators are used to pump water.

Anguyo revealed that, when the communities are cultivating the land, they often dig up or cut the pipes and this causes leakages, but these are reported to Oxfam to rectify.

On the issue of chlorine, Anguyo says the refugees are scared and suspicious of the whitish colour of the water, but this is caused by the high pressure during pumping and not high chlorine supply.

Much as Oxfam has motorized water in the settlements, some refugees have still resorted to using water from the streams and stagnant water sources for washing clothes and other domestic use.

However, Engineer Anguyo says they have not received complaints on water-borne diseases resulting from dirty water sources because the refugees rely on the motorized water for drinking and cooking food.

Since 2017, EU humanitarian aid has focused on providing rapid and effective emergency assistance to newly arrived refugees, especially to those arriving from South Sudan and the DRC. EU funding has enabled humanitarian organisations like Oxfam to provide protection, shelter, food assistance, access to safe water and sanitation services to refugees and their host communities.