For more than a year, Niger has faced a continuous influx of people fleeing violence across the border in Nigeria. Some 150,000 have sought safety in the southeastern Diffa region alone.
Communities in this arid region were already struggling to provide basics like clean water to their own people. Now they are sharing their scant resources with thirsty and traumatized refugees.
People were so thirsty that they waited and watched the well construction
The International Rescue Committee is working in Diffa to ensure enough water is available for everyone. Ibrahim Younis, the IRC’s emergency field director in Niger, recently oversaw the construction of three deep wells in the remote villages of Gagamari and Chetimari, where the population has tripled. Ibrahim shares his report from the field for World Water Day on March 22nd.
"People didn’t flee to camps. They have fled to large villages in the middle of the desert. The villages are condensed in terms of population, surrounded by sand and arid land, with little rain and far from any seas or lakes.
This whole area is very, very poor.
There aren’t enough wells for the host population or the new arrivals. The residents of the villages normally pay for access to water at the existing wells. But when you have people on the run for their lives, fleeing violence, they don’t have this extra money. They have to buy food and find shelter.
Together with the government and local contractors, the IRC constructed three water wells, enough to serve 1,500 people. Working closely with the local communities, we have identified sites for 10 more. Local committees will help maintain the new wells and pumps to ensure a safe supply of clean water, which will be free.
People were so thirsty that they waited and watched the well construction. Normally, we would have held an official ceremony to open each well. But as soon as fresh water was running from the taps, people quickly lined up to collect water to drink."