|Water and Sanitation in Emergencies - Good Practice Review 1 (ODI, 1994, 120 p.)|
|3. The Operating Environment: General Considerations|
Of particular relevance to the discussion will be the cultural practices of the community with which the agency is working. These are mainly highlighted in hygiene practices and, once again, the reader should use his/her own knowledge of local circumstances to adapt interventions accordingly.
Of relevance to all components of emergency programmes is the local, social and economic context in which the programme is taking place. Large influxes of displaced people can have a significant effect on local economies. Small trade items can generate a great deal of activity. Conversely, large numbers in receipt of food aid can have a significant effect on local food prices as they will often sell some of their ration in order to take part in the cash economy. Staples can drop dramatically in value. This can have disastrous consequences for the local residents, and can cause serious tension between the two populations, with an effect on all agencies involved with the provision of services.
Problems can also arise when the level of service being offered to displaced people is better than that received by locals. This applies particularly to the provision of water in regions where water is scarce. Wherever possible, attempts should be made to make provision for the local use of any new installations. When this is not possible efforts should be made to assist the resident populations as well as the incomers. This is not only in the interest of good relations between the two communities, but also because it is appropriate to benefit the locality for the long as well as the short term. Money is made available during emergencies, and many opportunities therefore exist to add value to local livelihoods a well as within refugee camps. In 1993 UNICEF did just this in north-east Kenya when it rehabilitated a number of local borehole supplies around Somali refugee camps; this helped to reduce tensions between the local population and the refugees.
Where refugees are amongst their own ethnic grouping, an inordinate strain will probably be placed upon local coping mechanisms. This needs to be recognised and programmes designed not only to provide a service to the displaced populations but also to reinforce local capacity to cope with the additional people. Water and sanitation programmes can play a large part here by helping to provide a better environment for the whole community.