|Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Policy (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1993, 11 p.)|
Two points must be stressed before any other consideration:
· The quantity of water made available is more important than quality as the latter can be improved by various treatments (either at community or at family level).
· Pure water, 100% free from contamination, is an objective which is impossible to achieve.
Sources of water have to be thoroughly assessed in terms of quantity, quality and accessibility. If needed, treatment and storage have to be organised and a proper system of distribution must be set up according to the local possibilities and the cultural requirements of the communities. Very often the transport of huge quantities of water has to be organised as long as the disaster victims remain in camps or provisional settlements. Together with tremendous logistical constraints, this raises serious issues related to the cost and sustainability of such an operation.
In terms of quantity, ideally an individual needs at least 20 litres/day in order to meet their needs for drinking, cooking and hygiene. This is not always met and some experts have set the minimum at 10 litres per person daily.
Sanitation is a key issue in all post disaster situations and it becomes even more important when a community is displaced outside its normal environment. Several types of diseases can be related to neglected sanitation; they are called water related diseases.
They can be grouped under four headings:
· Water-borne diseases. The pathogen is in the water used for drinking or food preparation.
· Water-scarce (or water washed) diseases. Diseases due to the lack of water.
· Water-based transmitted infections. The pathogen needs an aquatic intermediate host.
· Water-related insect vector transmitted diseases. The agent is transmitted by insects which breed in water, or live and bite near water.
Information on the occurrence of these diseases must be collected among the victims and the local authorities so as to know where the greatest risks lie. These should be addressed in order of priority. Simple preventive measures can do more than expensive curative programmes to guard against disease.
· Digging latrines and training the population to use them reduces the risks of outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases, and the transmission of some diseases.
· Cleaning the environment around the dwellings, in order to avoid any collection of water, will decrease the number of mosquito breeding sites and the transmission of malaria.
In designing these structures, one should consider the long term implications of: Location (is this the right spot for it?), Size (will it meet growing needs?), techniques (will it still be appropriate in the future?), and quality (is it made for long-term use?).
An adequate and safe water supply and appropriate sanitation are critical to health and must be included amongst the essential services to be secured during rehabilitation. If National Societies are to be involved in the establishment of such services, they must have access to the appropriate technical knowledge and skills for the design and installation of water supply and sanitation infrastructure, and the of possible disease problems. All infrastructure and systems should be appropriate for the local social, cultural, economic and environmental conditions.