In Jamam refugee camp, a community approach to sanitation

Joel M Bassuk

Blog post by Joel M Bassuk

Oxfam International, Social Media Manager
Share this page: 

One year after South Sudan’s independence (9 July 2011), the combination of severe economic crisis, poor rainfall in 2011 and ongoing conflicts have combined to create the country's worst humanitarian crisis since the end of the war in 2005. Fertile and resource rich, South Sudan has huge potential to feed its own population, yet nearly half of its 9.7 million citizens literally don't have enough food to eat.

Nearly 30,000 refugees from the conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile region have arrived in Jamam – a village in the remote Upper Nile state of South Sudan – since the start of  2012. Oxfam’s team in South Sudan is providing clean water, public health and sanitation in and around the new camp. With many more people expected to come, Oxfam is scaling up our response.

Oxfam moved staff and supplies in to the area late last year in anticipation that a big influx of people could come as the fighting in Blue Nile intensified. In December Oxfam chartered three planes from Juba (the capital of South Sudan) to bring up staff, food, camping equipment, and equipment such as generators, submersible pumps and water pipes.

Empowering the community

When the refugees first arrived, the first thing Oxfam did was consult the communities.

Christian Snoad is Oxfam’s emergency public health advisor, leading our emergency water and sanitation response in Jamam: "It might not seem like the most urgent thing in an emergency, but it makes sure that our response doesn’t have any negative impacts.

"We don’t want to do anything that could create a dependency culture on aid – instead we want to make the most of the skills, coping mechanisms and strengths that people already have.

"We wanted to see what the communities can do, rather than just showing them what we can do. This approach has definitely paid off. We found many people have the skills to build their own bathing shelters and latrines – they just needed the equipment."

During the first week of March this year, Oxfam helped 600 families construct bathing shelters and 300 build their own latrines – by just providing the tools and materials.

Water trucks and tapstands

There are no existing clean water sources in the camp, so water has been trucked in from functioning boreholes a few miles away. The water is trucked in and emptied into bladder tanks – Oxfam has built and connected six tapstands throughout the camp so people can collect it.

Oxfam is also providing services such as tapstands for the host community, in order to minimize any potential conflict that could arise with such a big influx. Jamam was home to just 3-4,000 people – now the population has risen tenfold.

Oxfam is building communal latrines to improve sanitation, 50 refugees have been trained to work within the camp to promote good hygiene practices. The camp is a very crowded place – very different from people's normal environment – and people are sharing water, with few latrines and soap, so there is a real risk of disease spreading. The trainees use various participatory methods such as games, meetings, and family visits, to spread messages.

Related links

Read the Oxfam briefing paper: Tackling the food deficit in the world’s newest country (pdf, 1MB)

Oxfam's response in the crisis in Sudan and South Sudan

Please consider helping fund our humanitarian aid work in Sudan and South Sudan. These Oxfam affiliates are running direct appeals:

You can also make a donation to the general emergency fund of your nearest national Oxfam affiliate. Your money will be used to fund our emergency work worldwide, which includes responding in countries such as Sudan, South Sudan and Chad.