Tunisia: clean drinking water for 100,000 people in south of country

22-09-2011 Operational Update

The ICRC is helping to meet the needs of people fleeing the conflict in Libya and of the local population.

Around 4,000 refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are still living in two camps near the border with Libya. Tens of thousands of Libyans have been taken in by residents or have been able to find places to live in the area on their own.

Supplying water to Ben Guerdane and Remada

"The massive influx of people from Libya is putting huge pressure on water resources in the border area of south-eastern Tunisia," said Valeria Gamboni, in charge of the ICRC's activities in the region. "The climate is very dry, so we had to take action to ensure that the people living here and those fleeing Libya would have enough water. Although the influx of displaced people has diminished considerably, the needs remain considerable."

The ICRC is providing support for the national water board to boost the supply of drinking water in the areas of Ben Guerdane and Remada, which have been particularly hard hit.

"Work is under way that will result in a considerable increase in the volume of water supplied to some 100,000 people," said Tomasina Churchward, the ICRC engineer in charge of the project. "In Ben Guerdane, a 5.3-kilometre pipeline has just been built to link an existing well with the reservoir that serves not only the city but also nearby villages, the Choucha refugee camp and even a village in Libya in the Jebel Nefusa border region. By mid-December, a second pipeline, 10.2 kilometres long, will improve the supply of water for the people of Remada."

The ICRC has also built a water desalinisation and distribution system to improve access to drinking water for the refugees and migrants in the Choucha camp.

Aid for the needy during Ramadan

Many Tunisians, particularly in the south of the country, have been hard hit by the economic consequences of the political instability in the country and by the conflict in Libya.

To help the neediest among them, especially orphans and widows, the ICRC supplemented the food aid provided by other humanitarian organizations during the month of Ramadan. In cooperation with local partners, basic necessities such as hygiene items, blankets and buckets were distributed to more than 1,600 families in the governorates of Tataouine and Medenine that have taken in a large number of Libyan refugees.

Helping hospitals to treat victims of the conflict in Libya

Hundreds of war casualties and sick persons unable to obtain care in Libya have arrived in Tunisia in recent months.

To help Tunisian health-care facilities cope with this situation while also maintaining their services for the Tunisian population, the ICRC delivered medical supplies to the civilian hospitals in Dehiba, Tataouine, Ben Guerdane, Sfax and Medenine, and to the military hospitals in Dehiba and Choucha. Bandages and other dressing materials, medicines, and surgical supplies (in particular, external fixators for fractured limbs) were provided.

"Over the past two months, the health-care centres that we support have attended to more than 500 wounded patients from Libya in need of surgery," said Angel Vicario, an ICRC medical delegate. "Lives have been saved thanks to the doctors' hard work and the enormous generosity of the Tunisian population."

The ICRC also made arrangements for Libyan refugees in Tunisia to visit injured and sick relatives in various hospitals.

70,000 telephone calls

Some 4,000 refugees from Libya who have not been taken in by third countries or repatriated to their own countries still find themselves in camps along the border. To help them maintain contact with close relatives throughout the world, the ICRC and the Tunisian Red Crescent are giving them the opportunity to make telephone calls. Every day, over 300 such calls are made.

Since February, more than 70,000 calls have been made from southern Tunisia to restore or maintain contact between family members.

For further information, please contact:
Sonia Khoudja, ICRC Tunis, tel: +216 25 336 200
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50



Tunisia, Ben Guerdane: Connecting a pipeline for the ICRC's project supporting the national water board.
© ICRC / T. Churchward


Tunisia: Excavation works to lay a pipeline for the ICRC's project supporting the national water board to boost the supply of clean drinking water in the Remada area.
© ICRC / T. Churchward