In 2003, the ICRC met the water needs of some 19 million people worldwide. Its water and sanitation activities aim to ensure that victims of armed conflict have access to safe water and proper sanitation.
©ICRC/ref. TP-N-00080-21 Access to water is vital!
The ICRC’s ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people who fall sick or die because the water system has collapsed. But this means more than building and repairing wells – health education is a key factor in preventing disease.
The Where and What of Water:
six of the top programmes
During the heavy fighting in mid-2003, the ICRC remained in Monrovia to provide assistance, under very difficult circumstances, to the resident population of the capital and the numerous displaced people that fled the advance of the rebels. Emergency water-trucking was organised to provide safe drinking water at distribution points strategically located in the city. After Charles Taylor's departure in August the displaced were able to return to their former camps on the outskirts of the capital. ICRC re-built water and sanitation facilities that had been da maged or destroyed.
Towards October, the ICRC opened sub-delegations in the remote rural areas of Liberia, where no other humanitarian organizations worked. Tremendous needs, especially related to the access to safe drinking water, were discovered. ICRC engineers immediately began a well disinfection programme, followed by the repair of existing infrastructures or the building of new ones.
Since the country split into opposing zones after the failed coup attempt of September 2002, the ICRC was concerned about access to safe drinking water for the civilian population living in the conflict-affected areas of the north and the west.
Most of the urban settlements have sophisticated water production and distribution systems. But due to the conflict and the ongoing insecurity, engineers and technicians of the private company in charge of this infrastructure fled the war zones. The ICRC facilitated the transport of urgently needed chemicals used for disinfecting the water, organized teams of engineers to make assessments and transported the necessary spare parts across the lines. Thanks to this ICRC operation, more than one and a half million people enjoy a constant supply of safe drinking water.
The ICRC Water and Habitat supports with technical materials the maintenance work of the water boards of Grozny (Chechnya) and Khasavyurt (Daghestan) Since 1999, it continues to run a c hlorinated water filling station for 40 000 inhabitants in Grozny town. It continues as well to supply water and to maintain hygiene points for about 9'000 displaced persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia and improved water supply, sanitation and living conditions in hospitals and temporary accommodation centres in Chechnya.
The ICRC supports the water board of Sukhumi (Abkhazia) and improved water supply, sanitation and living conditions in collectives centres gathering 3000 displaced in Western Georgia. In support of the program fighting against tuberculosis in detention places in South Caucasus, medical wards and a TB laboratory were rehabilitated.
ICRC engineers, in close cooperation with the water boards, worked before and during the war at numerous drinking water and sewage stations to help maintain at least minimum services for the population. In the post-war period ICRC engineers have continued to carry out emergency repairs at selected stations to try to avoid severe water shortages in particularly vulnerable areas.
Since, under the fourth Geneva Convention, public services are the responsibility of the occupying powers, the ICRC intervenes only when problems become so acute they threaten public health.
The ICRC has worked closely with the official body responsible for water and sewerage to help maintain the water supply in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat, as well as in certain provincial towns; this has helped hundreds of thousands of people.
In 2003, the ICRC completed a major project to restore electric power at the Logar well field, Kabul's main water source, thus ensuring the water supply for 400,000 people in the capital.