IHE Delft joined forces with the local water utility in Gambella, multilateral organizations (UNICEF and UNHCR), NGOs (Oxfam and IRC) and local consultants, and provided a training to start up the development of a Water Safety Plan for Itang water supply system. Itang water utility provides services to two host communities and three refugee camps.
Gambella region in Western Ethiopia rose to fame when, in 2013, the brutal conflict in South Sudan drove thousands of people from their homes and into this neighbouring region. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 422,240 South Sudanese refugees were living in 7 refugee camps in the Gambella region in October 2018. The security situation in the region remains unpredictable, with recent security incidents affecting refugees, host communities and humanitarian workers, which have included fatalities (UNHCR, 2019).
Numerous actors are engaged in providing basic services for the refugees and host communities. At present, 13.5 million litres of water are supplied across the regions in Ethiopia hosting refugees, representing an average per capita distribution of 20 litres of water per person per day (UNHCR, 2019). However, there are plans to further improve services, with a specific focus on water safety.
The 4-day training was led by Dr. Giuliana Ferrero, Senior Lecturer in Water Supply Engineering at IHE Delft, and was attended by 17 participants. Mr. Nhial Biel, Water quality expert and WASH focal person at Regional Water and Irrigation Resource Development Bureau of Gambella, said “this WSP training will improve operations and management of our water supply system, to provide safe drinking water to beneficiaries in a well-organized manner”.
The training consisted of short lectures and group work; a lot of emphasis was placed on discussing leadership and accountability for the implementation of the Water Safety Plan in the months and years to come. The output of the training was a draft Water Safety Plan document, which is the basis for future work.
“The training for Itang stakeholders was timely and helped in starting up the Water Safety Plan development. This will go a long way in assisting Itang water utility and its stakeholders to address the problems of the system” - Mark Mutswenje, WASH specialist, UNICEF Gambella.
“There is a clear link between Water Safety Plans, which aim to ensure safe - and affordable - drinking water, and leveraging financial investments”, says financial consultant Lea Kassa.
“From this training, I appreciated the value of strategic monitoring mechanisms developed as part of the Water Safety Plan. They enable a better understanding of the vulnerabilities of the system and can lead to enhanced safety of any water supply”, says Koat Jing, General Manager of the Itang Water Utility.