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2022 World Refugee Day: Safe Water for Refugees

In honor of World Refugee Day, we are publishing this story from the Water Mission 2022 Summer Newsletter on June 20. This year, World Refugee Day focuses on every person’s right to seek safety. We are honored to provide those seeking safety with one of life’s most important resources, safe water. 

“World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.”


Dzaleka refugee camp lies just north of Water Mission’s office in Lilongwe, Malawi. Built in the late-1990s, the settlement provided refuge to thousands of people fleeing violence in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the time, its capacity was between 10,000 and 14,000 people. With a recent influx of refugees, Dzaleka now houses more than four times that number of people. Because of this, the camp infrastructure is stretched beyond capacity. 

With the steadily rising population in Dzaleka, one of the biggest concerns was access to safe water. Safe, treated water is essential to prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses in refugee camps. It also provides the foundation for supporting other critical services, such as food distribution and medical-related needs. 

Because of our proven track record of building best-in-class safe water solutions in other refugee settings, we were invited to assess the situation in Dzaleka. We then provided our recommendations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).   

Safe, treated water is essential to prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses in refugee camps.

“As part of our initial assessment, we identified that there was no water treatment happening in the camp,” shared Nathan Schneider, Water Mission’s project manager for East Africa. 

Because even clear water can contain deadly bacteria and other contaminants, Water Mission’s report to UNHCR recommended improvements to the water systems, including the addition of residual chlorine dosing systems. On December 8, Water Mission was asked to move forward with implementing our recommendations. Because safe water saves lives, we mobilized quickly and, within just a few weeks, completed the system upgrades. 

“It was a short time to execute,” Nathan said, “but the Malawi team worked through the Christmas holiday to ensure this project was done well.”  

Our team retrofitted existing water systems with erosion chlorinators to treat the water. The safe, treated water is then distributed to men, women, and children in the settlement. This project serves more than 25,000 people and is the first verified safe water solution in Dzaleka.  

Appropriate engineering design takes into account geographical and cultural context, as well as supply chain limitations. The chlorination systems we installed in Dzaleka are ideal for rural settings because they do not require electricity, are easily transported, and are simple to operate.  

This project serves more than 25,000 people and is the first verified safe water solution in Dzaleka refugee camp.

Water Mission first started working with refugees in 2013, and today has major initiatives supporting refugees in Western Tanzania and Northern Uganda. With the Lord’s provision and because of faithful partners who come alongside us, we have provided safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions for hundreds of thousands of refugees. 

Water Mission is honored to work with UNHCR and Welthungerhilfe to fight the global water crisis and serve refugees. According to UNHCR, there are more than 84 million forcibly displaced people worldwide—a devastating statistic that continues to grow each year. 

Serving in vulnerable communities like Dzaleka is an incredible opportunity to show God’s love to our neighbors. By providing one of life’s most important resources, safe water, we can help refugees have a chance to lead healthier and more prosperous lives. 

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