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Myanmar: Water shortage amidst economic, political and health crisis

April 12th, 2022  •  Author:   Solidarités International  •  3 minute read
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In Myanmar, the political and economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic and the overthrow of the civilian authorities on Feburary 1st, 2021 has led to an explosion in humanitarian needs.

Access to essential goods has become more difficult, and tensions and violence in the country have led to significant population displacement. The shortages observed concern access to food, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as health and education. Hundreds of thousands of people are now extremely vulnerable.

The situation could quickly become even more dramatic with the arrival of the dry season: the increased drought that hits the country every year during this period confronts the population with a water scarcity. The water shortages particularly affect the displaced population, including the Rohingya communities living in the camps on the Pauktaw islets in Arakan State.

LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE

To meet these critical needs, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been securing water supplies for the Pauktaw camps since 2012. This is a major logistical challenge as the water has to be pumped from a distance, transported by boat and then transferred from the coast to the camps via a pipeline system so that it can be treated and distributed to the population. This requires a great deal of coordination between the different actors involved in these operations. “It is also very important to be able to adapt to daily constraints such as tide times and possible breakdowns,” says Jean-Loup Gouot, country director of the Myanmar mission.

Hygiene kits consisting of soap and other essential hygiene products (toothbrushes, toothpaste, detergent, sanitary towels, etc.) are also distributed and awareness-raising sessions on good hygiene practices are held.

The NGO’s mobilisation is crucial in that it enables the people it supports to drink drinking water, cook and wash.

Our aim is to reduce the risks of spreading diseases and epidemics caused by the ingestion of unsafe water and lack of hygiene,” says Jean-Loup Gouot.

It also allows people living in the camps to work.

Before, fetching water took a long time because the available water source was far from my home. As the head of the household, I didn’t have enough time to fetch water and work,” says Adumaw Gyi, a resident of Kyein Ni Pyin camp.

Access to water remains quantitatively limited. The needs are such that it is sometimes difficult to provide more than 10 litres of water per day per person, half the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation.

FINANCIAL CHALLENGE

Humanitarian actors and donors must respond to emerging needs following the health crisis and the coup, while continuing to meet pre-existing needs.

In this context, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is having difficulty securing the funds it needs to make its activities possible in the Pauktaw IDP camps in Arakan State, home to more than 23,700 Rohingya, including nearly 6,000 children.

The stakes are high and the support of all in this response will allow this population to limit the risk of spreading serious waterborne diseases within the camps (cholera, acute diarrhoea, etc.) but also to better contain the spread of COVID-19. This risk is all the more worrying as the populations concerned have no access to health structures and their freedom of movement is restricted.


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