Mahama: Burundian refugees get a New Permanent Water Treatment Plant

“With this new permanent water treatment plant, everything is now automated and we are sure of the quality and the quantity of water that will be provided to refugees.” – Mr. Saber Azam, UNHCR Representative

MahamaOn 30th November, Honorable Mukantabana Seraphine, Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), Representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Mr. Saber Azam, UNICEF Representative Mr. Ted Maly, and Oxfam Country Director Mr. Patrick Wajero, were joined by the UK High Commissioner Mr. William Gelling to launch the permanent water treatment plant in Mahama Refugee Camp, which will supply water to refugees but also to host communities in the previously water-scarce areas surrounding the camp. “Rwanda’s largest refugee camp in Mahama, Kirehe District, is now home to 61% of all Burundian refugees living in this country. The Government of Rwanda has provided security and is committed to ensuring improved livelihoods of all refugees in the country,” stated Honorable Mukantabana.

Through close collaboration with international partners, various projects to improve living conditions in the camps have been undertaken and the Permanent Water Treatment Plant in Mahama Refugee Camp is one such project. Implemented by Oxfam with funding from DFID, the plant is expected to provide clean and fresh water to refugees and the host community of Mahama villages. The government of Rwanda is committed to provide sustainable solutions to challenges faced by refugees in the country.


Mahama refugee camp: refugees commit themselves to improve their health by using properly the safe water. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) co-coordinates the refugee response in Rwanda with the Government, which is hosting over 165,000 refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Among the protection and other forms of multisectoral support UNHCR brings to refugees, it also ensures access to water for refugees living in the country’s 6 camps “Water is one of the most fundamental basic needs of any human being, and I am pleased that thanks to the very strong partnership with the Government, with our longstanding partners UNICEF and Oxfam, today we will be able to ensure a source of clean water for Mahama’s refugees but for the Rwandans in the neighboring areas, who are so generously hosting them” said Azam. Under international humanitarian standards, refugees should have access to at least 20 litres of water per day per person, in order for refugees to enjoy satisfactory conditions of health, sanitation and hygiene. Many people forget that this standard includes not only water for drinking, but also cooking, bathing, and cleaning. In Mahama Refugee Camp, UNHCR works with UNICEF and OXFAM to provide to over 50,000 refugees with clean water.

During the initial outbreak of the emergency, UNHCR relied on costly trucking of water in order to reach the daily minimum standard, before constructing a temporary water treatment system which purified surface water from the Akagera River.

The temporary plant has an optimum capacity of 900 m3 per day supplying clean water to all refugees in the camp at 20 liters per person per day, as per UNHCR standards. With the temporary plant reaching its full operational capacity, there was an obvious need to develop a higher capacity water treatment plant. This newly constructed water treatment system is especially important in Rwanda as it is a solution not only for Mahama’s refugees, but for the neighboring community as well. This access to clean water will also have a very important impact on many vital sectors in the camp and around it, including nutrition, health, education and sanitation.


July – 2016, Mahama refugee camp, the largest camp in Rwanda hosts more than 50, 000 Burundian refugees./ Photo Courtesy

The construction of the plant was led by Oxfam, which is globally recognized as a leading agency in providing water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) assistance to affected communities in humanitarian settings.

The construction of the Mahama Permanent Water Treatment Plant (PWTP) was mainly funded by DFID, for a total amount of GBP 650,000, with substantial contributions from MIDIMAR, MINIRENA (Ministry of Natural Resources), UNHCR, and UNICEF. The plant was constructed between April and November 2016. Civil works and water infrastructures construction was done by IMPALA Trading Limited (a local construction company). IMPALA outsourced the supply and installation of electro-mechanical and hydraulic equipment to IMAGUA (a Spanish company).

The permanent water treatment plant is a conventional plant using a combination of coagulation, sedimentation, rapid sand filtration and disinfection to provide clean, safe water to beneficiaries. It has the capacity to produce 1,200 m3 per day with enough quantity of clean water for a maximum of 60,000 people per day, running for 14 hours a day. The plant has the capacity to increase its production (e.g. if the plant would run for 16 hours a day it could provide water to 68,000 people).


Some of the parts of the Water Treatment Plant constructed in Mahama refugee camp. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana


Mahama Water Treatment Plant has the capacity to produce 1,200 m3 per day with enough quantity of clean water for a maximum of 60,000 people per day, running for 14 hours a day. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana