Children fetching water from the motorised boreholes at Rhino Camp refugee settlement in Arua in the West Nile region of Uganda

DRC provides clean water for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda

With more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, the need for services is immense. The Danish Refugee Council has installed permanent water systems in order to ensure clean drinking water for the many people seeking protection from the conflict in South Sudan.


In July 2016, as conflict raged in South Sudan, Betty Akujo, 25, trekked from her home town of Yei to Bokolo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from where she found her way to Rhino Camp, a refugee settlement in Arua district in the West Nile region of Uganda.

At the height of the conflict in South Sudan, Uganda witnessed an unprecedented influx of refugees. By August 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced the country had surpassed the one million mark from South Sudan.

Many of the refugees, like Betty Akujo, found themselves in settlements like Rhino Camp which by end of September had a population of 109,429, with 69% comprising of children and adolescents.

Rhino Camp sits on a 294km2 of land spread across its five zones. The sheer size of the camp and the sudden influx of refugees into Uganda from July 2016 posed and continue to pose a challenge to actors like DRC in providing much needed assistance such as clean drinking water.

“There was already water trucking but this was not sufficient,’’ Betty Akujo explained the water situation when she first arrived at Rhino Camp adding: “We supplemented the water by fetching more from the nearby stream. We would dig the sand till we got water.’’

John Paul Mwaniki, DRC’s Emergency Wash Coordinator explains how dire the water situation was in Rhino Camp in July 2016.

‘‘On average a refugee household with 5-6 individuals including children would receive between 5-7 litres per person per day of water which is lower than the average needed for human survival," said  Mr Mwaniki.

With support from the European Commission and Ole Kirk Foundation, DRC began work on motorized boreholes.

The water is pumped through a network of 13.3kms. Along the way, the water goes to taps in the villages in Rhino Camp while the rest flows to a water trucking point with two tanks, each with a capacity of 20,000 litres. The water from the tanks is then trucked to parts of the refugee settlement not yet covered by motorized boreholes.

The motorized boreholes have greatly reduced on the cost of water trucking.

“Water trucking is very expensive. Before the motorized boreholes 5,000 USD was spent per day on water trucking. Now in the areas covered by the motorized boreholes, only 150 USD is being spent,’’ John Paul Mwaniki said.

The motorized boreholes, powered by diesel engines, produce 200,000-300,000 litres of water per day helping to raise the amount of water each refugee household receives from the initial average of 5-7 litres per day to 18 litres per person per day.

“If you compare water access today and before there is much improvement, a big difference. Now we can get water every day,” said Betty Akujo.

For other Rhino Camp residents like Jamie James, 30, the benefit of the motorized water boreholes was beyond water; he was one of those employed as casual labourers to lay the water pipeline.

“My hope is that I do more of this kind of activities to raise some money,” he said.

For the 11,134 residents of Rhino Camp covered by the motorized boreholes, distance from their homes to a clean water source has been reduced. The burden for getting water for homes in the refugee settlements is mostly on women. The long distance from homes to the water points had been a cause of gender based violence against women. Both problems have now been substantially addressed by bringing water sources closer to the residents and improving their quality of life.