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close this bookPublic Health Technician (MSF, 1994, 192 p.)
close this folder1. Water in camps of Displaced people
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. Needs
View the documentB. Water related health risks
View the documentC. Water supply
View the documentD. Assessment of water quality
View the documentE. Simple water treatment technique
View the documentF. Technical briefs

A. Needs

Like any population, displaced people need access to good quality water in sufficient quantity.

This need is that much greater in camps where the population concentration increases the risks of pollution and of epidemics of water-borne diseases.


The notion of sufficient quantity is very subjective and depends strongly on the climate and on the habits of the population.

Nevertheless, it may be assumed that ten litres per person per day is a minimum need, while aiming to reach the following targets as soon as possible (UNHCR 1982):

- For domestic consumption: 15 - 20 litres per person per day (drinking, cooking, hygiene).
- For collective feeding centres: 20 - 30 litres per person per day.
- For hospitals: 40 - 60 litres per person per day.

In case of severe shortage, a daily ration of 4 to 5 litres may suffice very provisionally. Unless there is a shortage, it is better not to put any limit on consumption as the health status of the population is influenced by the quantity of water used.

It is not enough to supply 10 - 15 litres of water per person per day to a camp; people should actually be able to use this quantity. Therefore water should be reasonably accessible (in terms of distance and of waiting time at the water point), and the means to transport and store it should be available (if the supply is via taps, allow at least one tap per 200 - 250 people and arrange these taps in groups of 6 or 8 maximum). It is important to ensure that the population has enough containers (jerrycans, buckets, etc.) for the collection and storage of water; otherwise a distribution will be necessary.

If a sufficient quantity of water is not available near the site, moving the camp should be considered.


The water should be harmless to health and have an appearance and taste acceptable to the population.

Ideally the water supplied should meet the water quality standards of the WHO.

However, in practice it is often necessary to supply water which does not conform to these standards, simply because there is no alternative.


- The quantity of water available has relatively more importance than its quality.

It is preferable to have a lot of water of average quality than little water of very good quality.

The lack of water to ensure a minimum of hygiene entails even more problems than does the consumption of relatively poor quality water.

- Water quality is important for drinking water but is of less importance for other uses (except where there is a risk of schistosomiasis). It is sometimes possible to supply water of two different qualities, but this generally entails more disadvantages than advantages.