The Azraq refugee camp in Jordan is currently home to around 35,000 refugees from Syria, making it the second largest in the country. The camp is situated on a desert plain 90 kilometres from the border with Syria and was opened by the Jordanian authorities in April 2014. It is operated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and can accommodate up to 55,000 people.
With scorching temperatures during the summer months, a continuous supply of drinking water is a priority for the people living there. Initially, 40 to 50 tankers would drive to a water source 50 kilometres away from the camp to deliver drinking water to the refugees. With each cubic metre of water transported costing CHF 4.30 however, this proved to be expensive. In August 2015, a new borehole only 2.5 kilometres from the camp was drilled, reducing the figure to CHF 1.50. But with the camp’s ever-growing population, it became even more important to find a more efficient and less costly method to ensure access to drinking water for the refugees.
Drinking water right up to the front door
All of the UN’s water and sanitation activities in the Middle East are led by UNICEF, including the Azraq refugee camp. In autumn 2015, UNICEF signed an agreement with the Humanitarian Aid of SDC which had responded to its appeal to create a water distribution network within the camp. Members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit’s Water and Environmental Sanitation expert group were deployed to implement the project. One of the specialists was also seconded to UNICEF.
A second borehole right next to the camp was drilled in order to diversify the sources of water and reduce dependency on any one well which, if contaminated, would have deprived the camp’s entire population of drinking water with disastrous consequences. Using the 35 kilometres of water pipes and 214 taps being stored on site, these water sources were then connected to the camp. Local technicians were also given training to help keep the system in good working order.
Savings help invest in training
When the project was completed in May 2017, the water tankers had been replaced by a system capable of providing the refugees with a continuous supply of drinking water. Because the tankers are no longer needed, CHF 1 million will be saved each year on transport costs and will be invested in training programmes for the refugees.
On 19 May 2017, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter attended the inauguration ceremony at the camp, 18 months after his first visit. The entire project has now been handed over to UNICEF and the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation.