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close this bookWater and Sanitation in Emergencies - Good Practice Review 1 (ODI, 1994, 120 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Objectives and Intended Audience
close this folder2. Water and Sanitation in the Context of Environmental Health
View the document2.1 Environmental Health
close this folder3. The Operating Environment: General Considerations
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 The political context
View the document3.2 Conflict areas
View the document3.3 Technological considerations
View the document3.4 Climatic considerations
View the document3.5 Common characteristics of displaced and resident populations
View the document3.6 Social and economic considerations
View the document3.7 Management considerations
close this folder4. The Operating Environment: Needs Assessment, Co-ordination and Contingency Planning
View the document4.1 Assessment of needs
View the document4.2 The importance of co-ordination
View the document4.3 The need for contingency planning within an emergency programme
close this folder5. Water: General Principles
View the document5.1 Quantity and quality considerations
View the document5.2 Options for providing increasing water supply
close this folder6. Sanitation: General Principles
View the document(introduction...)
View the document6.1 Latrines
View the document6.2 Other sanitation considerations
View the document6.3 Hygiene awareness
close this folder7. Typical Scenarios
View the document7.1 Introduction
View the document7.2 Population displacement into arid areas
View the document7.3 Population displacement into hilly and mountainous areas
View the document7.4 Population displacement into areas of abundant surface water
View the document7.5 Population displacement into existing settlements
View the document7.6 Resident population affected by drought
View the document7.7 Resident population affected by sudden-onset disasters
View the document7.8 Emergency water and sanitation programmes in urban areas
View the documentAnnex 1 - Further Resources
View the documentAnnex 2 - Useful Contacts and Addresses
View the documentAnnex 3 - Technical Guidelines
View the documentAnnex 4 - Checklist for Environmental Health Needs Assessment
View the documentAnnex 5 - Practical Ways to Prevent the Spread of Cholera
View the documentAnnex 6 - A Gender Checklist for Environmental Health Actions
View the documentAnnex 7 - Chlorine as a Water Disinfectant
View the documentGood practice RRN review
View the documentHow to order
View the documentRRN

3.5 Common characteristics of displaced and resident populations

Displaced Populations. When an emergency involves the displacement of a population, the agency charged with the provision of water and sanitation is usually working from a basis of little or no infrastructure. The population will probably have settled where it feels safe and is within reasonable access to water. It is likely that the site it has chosen, or which has been chosen for it by the government or an international agency, will be remote, undeveloped and will offer little in terms of natural resource potential. Indeed, the fact that the land is available almost certainly means that the local populations have chosen not to utilise it for those very reasons. Under such circumstances an agency is faced with the enormous task of establishing appropriate water supply and sanitation systems in the shortest possible time.

The displaced population will have moved, if possible, as a unit, e.g. as a family, village, or district. Full use should be made of this factor as communities of this kind will have brought their own social structure with them, and this will be very helpful in terms of organising responsibilities, labour and the management of systems.

There will be large numbers of people in a confined area. In effect, virtually overnight rural populations are faced with living in conditions of very high urban population density. For many rural people this will be the first time they have experienced such living conditions and they will be unaware of the implications the situation has for their health.

In contrast, there are occasions when the small numbers of people settling in a particular area make it difficult to deliver, or possibly to justify the expense of, the level of service that is needed. This is most likely to be the case with people who have been displaced within their own country and who prefer to settle as near as possible to their home area. This was the situation on a large scale in the Ruhengeri region in northern Rwanda when overnight 900,000 people were displaced by fighting in February 1993. Large numbers of people settled in many small settlements.

Refugee populations typically contain a much higher than normal percentage of women and children. It is also probable that there will be a large number of sick, wounded and disabled people. All these groups will have their own special needs.

For these reasons it is crucial that there is a rapid and immediate response. Delays in making decisions, debating technical solutions and deploying staff can prove tragic.

Resident populations. Working with resident populations poses very different challenges for the intervening agency. The problem usually is that the established infrastructure can no longer provide the level of service required. For example, wells may have dried up or pumps broken down. The need therefore is to look at ways of rehabilitating, improving or upgrading systems so that they can continue to provide for the community.

There is a much greater need for sensitivity with respect to ongoing development initiatives in the area. For example, if there has been a long established community management structure for the maintenance of wells and an agency, seeing an emergency need, takes it upon itself to rehabilitate those same wells, it is probable that long-term damage can be imposed on the community management.

In the same context, it is important that any technical work should be sustainable. The village will continue to exist long after the emergency has run its course; attention must therefore be paid to the community's ability to live with the solutions that have been decided upon to address the immediate needs of an emergency.

Emergencies affecting resident populations will be either slow-onset i.e. drought or sudden-onset, i.e. natural disasters. In both instances the most important aspect is to identify the potential emergency as quickly as possible. If it is recognised early on that there is going to be a problem of water supply and/or sanitation with a resident population, there are less likely to be any negative long-term impacts as solutions can be carefully considered and more appropriate to the long-term needs of the community. In this context, early warning systems and disaster mitigation measures play an important role.