There are two seasons in Nyarugusu Refugee Settlement, one of mud and another of dust. We’ve been in the dusty season for only six weeks, but already the trees along the sides of roads are orange with red African soil, stirred up by countless aid trucks moving through the camp. Children love to play along these roads, or just sit and watch the trucks go by, so they become filthy from the dust—as do we.
Water Mission has been working in Nyarugusu since September 2015 when we responded to an emergency need to supply safe drinking water to 30,000 refugees from Burundi. Because that 2015 project was so successful, and because the number of refugees in need of safe water has grown to 313,000 in three camps, the Poul Due Jensen Foundation awarded Water Mission a $5.3 million grant to (1) make all the water served to refugees in western Tanzania safe to drink and (2) end dependence on costly, unreliable diesel generators by adding solar power at water sources.
Water Mission now has two large solar arrays under construction to provide power for two existing boreholes in Nyarugusu. Four treatment enclosures are also under construction; each will house automatic water treatment systems that will reliably render water safe for the refugees—and for anyone from anywhere in the world, for that matter. In less than two weeks, a drill rig and crew will arrive at Nyarugusu to construct three to five new boreholes to produce clear water, which is much more easily treated than the muddy, contaminated river water source originally used.
Each of these new boreholes will be equipped with solar-powered systems to increase reliability and save fuel through the use of clean energy from the sun. The goal is to have this work completed within the year. Other similar work in the two remaining refugee camps will begin over the next few months.
This past week, an engineer asked for a truck to drive to Nyarugusu so that he and a technician from our team could gather some data for the new solar-powered systems we’re about to install. Not too unusual—that is his job—except that this was a Saturday. He didn’t say why they wanted to work on a Saturday, but like the 20 or so other staff here, he knows he doesn’t have to. Our staff see those children sitting on the side of the road and understand that lives are at stake, that the work is urgent.
They are compelled to get the job done quickly and done right so it will last. Like other Water Mission staff, this particular engineer is a Christian, moved by faith and the heart of Jesus Christ who said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46). Every day, by God’s incredible grace, we move even closer to providing safe water for every refugee living in Nyarugusu Refugee Settlement.