Not Just a Drop in the Bucket

How donors help UNHCR meet refugees’ long-term water needs

August 11, 2016

© UNHCR/Christopher Herwig

For a refugee who’s walked for days to reach safety, emergency water is an immediate lifesaver. But when 24 people are displaced every minute and a refugee can be under UNCHR protection for as long as 17 years, the greater challenge is to provide a safe and dependable water supply for the long term.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the UNHCR-supported Za’atari and Molé Refugee Camps, both of which have become sprawling cities in their own right.

Za’atari, located in Jordan — one of the driest counties in the world — is home to nearly 80,000 refugees who fled from Syria, where violent conflict has raged for over five years. In summer, temperatures of 104° Fahrenheit are common. Water, and plenty of it, is desperately needed — enough to drink, enough to wash, enough for adequate sanitation and enough to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid.

About two-thirds of the Za’atari’s water supply comes from two boreholes reaching far under the desert floor. The rest is trucked in. To phase out costly water deliveries, there are plans for a third borehole, which donor support will make possible.

Farida, who fled to Za’atari with her family in 2012, has a steady supply of clean water that she calls “a miracle.” For people like Farida and her family, every drop of water is a gift of survival, personal dignity, and hope for the future.


Over 2,500 miles away in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the thermometer can climb as high as it does in Za’atari, 20,000 women, children and men who fled violence and persecution in the Central African Republic live in Molé Refugee Camp.

Juliet and Martin’s family, who arrived at Molé in 2013, count on USA for UNHCR donor support to survive. At the camp, they have plenty of safe water not only for cooking, drinking and washing, but also to tend a vegetable garden that supplements the food they buy with cash assistance.

UNHCR ensures that the people who call Molé home get the water they need through a system of reservoirs, boreholes and taps.


Safe, clean water is probably the single most important thing UNHCR can provide to protect refugees’ health and well-being. A steady, long-term and nearby supply of water promotes good health … keeps children in school because they don’t need to spend hours fetching water …. and enables families to cook and eat together — giving them a desperately needed semblance of a normal life.

With donor support, UNHCR will continue to do whatever it takes to keep life sustaining water flowing!

Here’s how you can help …

By becoming a USA for UNHCR monthly donor, you can provide clean water, along with food, shelter, medical care and education, to vulnerable refugees every day of the year in every corner of the world. Start making a lifesaving difference for refugees with monthly gifts today.