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at Za’atari Camp

© UNHCR/Alaa

at Za’atari Camp

See this exclusive video of UNHCR’s challenging work of getting water to Za’atari and the special water needs of Farida’s family

You’re helping refugee families get clean, healthy water

There are no rivers, lakes or streams near Za’atari – so how is water provided for families like Abdul and Farida’s who now live there?

Watch your latest exclusive video now, where Ihab Shaban explains how your support helps meet a huge logistical challenge – providing water and sanitation for around 85,000 people living in the middle of a desert.

Facts & Figures – Water

Access to clean water and effective sanitation is essential to people’s life, health and dignity. But providing this in somewhere like Za’atari is a huge challenge.

The camp is effectively a city in the desert with a population now of around 85,000 people, and it sprung up almost overnight.

The statistics below give you some idea of the logistics involved. With your continued support we will go on ensuring that everybody in Za’atari has access to clean water and sanitation, for as long as they need it.

35 litres – amount of water required per person per day

20 – average no. of trucks delivering water each day

352 – no. of communal washblocks

477 – no. of communal tapstands

Three internal water wells established in 2016 have a combined daily capacity of 3,800m3

Wastewater treatment plant has a capacity of 3,600m3/day

Statistics correct as of August 2017

UNHCR’s work with water, worldwide

Families take water from communal tapstands for all their household needs, like washing their dishes and cooking utensils. Credit ©UNHCR/S.Rich

Whenever UNHCR responds to emergencies, getting water to people is a top priority.

But when thousands of people are moving to a new area at the same time, existing water and sanitation systems can very quickly be overwhelmed and break down. And in conflict areas infrastructure like water plants and pipes are often destroyed. So in the short-term, when we can UNHCR might truck in water to people, or pump water from existing sources like rivers and lakes to make sure refugee families have enough to survive.

When we know families will be staying in a place for a long time, we make sure they have a durable supply of clean water. In some countries this will involve upgrading or rehabilitating existing water infrastructure, while in other countries we might dig wells and boreholes. And wherever we provide water, we’ll treat it if necessary to make sure it’s safe for families to drink.

Getting rid of potentially harmful waste is just as important. So UNHCR provides and installs latrines and septic tanks, to minimise the threat of disease spread by mosquitoes, flies and rats.

Providing refugee families with water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to survive displacement is a huge undertaking – and we couldn’t do it without you.

In a bid to improve efficiency, cost effectiveness, sustainability and the overall quality in service delivery at Za’atari, in 2016, three internal water wells were established with a combined daily capacity of 3,800m3, and a wastewater treatment plant with a capacity of 3,600m3/d; to meet the needs of the Camp’s population. In addition, a piped water supply distribution system is currently under construction that will ensure piped water delivery to every household in the camp, together with a piped sewerage network, linking the collection system to the wastewater treatment plant. In addition, solid waste management and community-led low cost recycling are priorities.

Thank you for helping refugee families get the water they need to survive.

What UNHCR’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Expert has to Say

Syrian children collect water from a communal tap in Jordan’s Za’atari centre. Credit ©UNHCR/J.Kohler

“I’ve seen what happens when people don’t have clean water – and I won’t let that happen here.”

Amin Bhai, UNHCR WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Officer in Za’atari, explains some of the difficulties he faces on a daily basis, in trying to provide water and sanitation for around 83,000 people.

“I wanted to do this job because of what I saw in India, where my parents are from. When there’s no clean water people get all sorts of horrible conditions and diseases and can really suffer, or even die. So when the opportunity came up to do this job, I didn’t really have to think twice.

“I arrived here in the summer of 2012, just after the camp opened. There were less than 20,000 people here then, but that soon ballooned to over 120,000. It has since declined to around 83,000 people, but the task was still hugely daunting. There is no easily accessible water source anywhere near us; we’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

“We had to build water and sanitation infrastructure for tens of thousands of people, we had to do it quickly and we were starting from scratch.

“At first all the water was trucked in, but pretty early on we took the decision to sink boreholes. That’s a huge technical challenge because we had to go down 500 metres. And even after the drilling was done there was so much more to think about: how to get water from the boreholes into the washrooms and bathrooms in camp, how to keep it clean and how to get the waste out safely. When somewhere is as crowded as Za’atari the sanitation is crucial. Waterborne disease is a real risk but, fingers crossed, we’ve not had any serious outbreaks yet.

“Even today, several years down the line, there’s still new challenges every day. We’re continually trying to make the system better so that everybody here can get water to drink and wash without too many problems. We’ll be sinking another borehole soon and that will mean that everybody has access to a tap within a few metres of their home.

“Getting water to people is vital for their health, but here in Jordan it’s also about their dignity and independence.

“People need to wash before prayers, it’s part of who they are. They’ve already lost so much: their homes, their livelihoods and often even family members, so it’s really important to give them water and the means to live as normal a life as possible.

“Like I said, there are still new challenges every day, and that’s going to continue. So I’m really grateful for your ongoing support and donations. We’re going to be here for as long as we’re needed and it’s fantastic to have people like you on our side.”

Amin Bhai
UNHCR WASH Officer, Za’atari.

Jordan. Syrian refugees in Zaatari Camp.

Za’atari is effectively a city in the desert. It is home to around 85,000 people who each need a minimum of 35 litres of water per day. Credit ©UNHCR/S.Rich


It doesn’t often rain in Za’atari, but when it does a huge amount can fall in a short space of time. So the streets need drainage channels to avoid flooding. Credit ©UNHCR/S.Rich

Jordan. Daily life in Za'atari Camp

UNHCR constantly upgrades water systems to accommodate needs of refugees in Za’atari. Credit ©UNHCR/W.Page

Jordan. UNHCR water delivery services in Za'atari Camp

UNCHR water delivery in Za'atari Refugee Camp. As the number of refugee living in Za'atari has expanded over the years, the demand for water has increased dramatically.. Credit ©UNHCR/W. Page