The Gambella Region in Ethiopia hosts more than 320,000 refugees, primarily South Sudanese refugees fleeing the civil war in neighbouring South Sudan. The high population density and austere conditions in the refugee camps and the surrounding host communities make access to clean water and upholding good hygiene practices a challenge – and the global COVID-19 pandemic has only added to these problems.
Building on several years of experience establishing solar water solutions in village communities in Togo, PlanBørnefonden and the Grundfos Foundation now launch a new project called “SunWASH”, which includes bringing sustainable access to clean water and sanitation as well as hygiene promotion activities to limit the transmission of COVID-19 to approximately 120,000 people in the refugee camps and the surrounding host communities.
PlanBørnefonden contributes insight into local conditions and training of the population and heads the overall implementation with assistance from partner organisation Water Mission, offering technical knowhow and engineering of the solar water solutions in the refugee camps. The contact between PlanBørnefonden and the American NGO Water Mission was facilitated by the Foundation and builds on valuable experience from a similar project in Tanzania completed in cooperation with Water Mission.
“We are extremely excited to be expanding our effective cooperation with PlanBørnefonden. And our ambitions for this project are extremely high. If we succeed, the project will serve as a beacon for installation of solar water systems in refugee communities around the world to benefit both people and the planet,” says Executive Director of the Grundfos Foundation, Kim Nøhr Skibsted.
Girls are a priority
Pumps and facilities such as latrines, washbasins and water stations are not only installed in the refugee camps but also in the surrounding host communities to ensure clean water and healthy hygiene practices among both refugees and the local population, which is also experiencing a strain on resources. In this way, all people living in the project areas benefit from the new facilities. We are also focusing on involving girls and women in the project.
“Bringing water to their families is a task mainly undertaken by women and girls. Despite the fact that they are the ones walking to the well and other water sources to bring home water, they are rarely consulted when local communities decide how to manage water, sanitation and hygiene. With this project, we aim to sway some of these notions and norms while training young women in the production and sale of sanitary pads to ensure that these new opportunities will also secure jobs for women in the long term,” explains CEO of PlanBørnefonden, Dorthe Petersen.
The project will commence in October 2020, and the Grundfos Foundation has already paid out the first half of its DKK 24,950,000 commitment (~ USD 3.9 million). The project comprises a multitude of different water, sanitation and hygiene components to be implemented in three refugee camps, a reception centre and 15 large village communities in the Gambella Region over a period of 30 months.
“If we succeed, the project will make an enormous difference – not just for the people of Gambella, but for refugees around the world. It is truly a pioneering project, which we can be very proud of,” says Dorthe Petersen.
The project name consists of the words Sun and WASH, where WASH stands for WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene. We have included “Sun” to reflect the fact that the pumps are powered by the sun. Unique Grundfos technology ensures optimum energy utilisation in the pump solutions installed as part of the project.