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Water and habitat: ensuring decent living conditions

Water and habitat: ensuring decent living conditions

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Where there is armed conflict, we often find epidemics, increased urbanization, poor sanitation, water shortages, and a breakdown in the existing infrastructure, all of which pose a direct threat to people’s health and dignity. The Water and Habitat Unit at the ICRC endeavours to address these problems. This leaflet provides an overview of the unit’s work in acute, chronic and post-crisis situations and introduces the reader to the ICRC’s water, sanitation and habitat activities.

http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/publication/p4049.htm
Where there is armed conflict, we often find epidemics, increased urbanization, poor sanitation, water shortages, and a breakdown in the existing infrastructure, all of which pose a direct threat to people’s health and dignity. The Water and Habitat Unit at the ICRC endeavours to address these problems. This leaflet provides an overview of the unit’s work in acute, chronic and post-crisis situations and introduces the reader to the ICRC’s water, sanitation and habitat activities.

http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/publication/p4049.htm

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Published by: International Committee of the Red Cross on Jan 18, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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WATER ANDHABITAT ACTIVITIES
Neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian
action during armed conicts and situations o 
internal violence is at the heart o the ICRC's
mandate and is a undamental part o its identity.
 This approach helps the organization to reachconict victims and respond to their needs.
 The ICRC's Water and Habitat Unit carries out
building and engineering projects designedto ensure that people caught up in armed
conict have access to clean water and proper
sanitation at all times and that they live in a
healthy environment.
ICRC engineers assess the water and housing
needs o conlict victims, plan projects to
solve the problems encountered, negotiate
with local authorities and irms regardingproject implementation, supervise theexecution o the projects and handle all
aspects o their management.
 Affected groups:
• Civilians and displacedpersons• Wounded and sick • Disabled• DetaineesSafe drinking waterEmergency assistanceSanitation andenvironmentalhealthBuilding andrehabilitationEnergysupply andenvironmentShelters
See Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions o 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection o Victimso International Armed Conicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977.
Because it is essential to survival, wateris aforded special protection underinternational humanitarian law.
Water and Habitat
WATER AND HABITAT : ENSURING DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS
 
SAfE DRINkINg WATER
By 2050 the world’s population, estimated todayat 6.8 billion, will have grown by 50 per cent. In
addition to the expected depletion of the world’s
natural resources, issues such as urbanization,
migration, new forms of land use, global economic
crises and climate change will have ar-reaching
consequences or access to clean water. Well-managed water resources are indispensableor sustaining economic development and
agricultural and industrial production.
 The strain on obsolete inrastructure – unable
to meet existing demands or water, sanitation
and electricity – has already led to increased
tensions within communities and, in some cases,
to armed violence. Although water-related
issues usually encourage cooperation betweencountries sharing cross-border resources, it canalso be a source o tension or conict betweencommunities; water shortages can exacerbateexisting problems and orce people to migrate.
In such circumstances, water-supply projects
can help ease tensions.
Access to water is frequently restricted because
water-supply or water-treatment systems have
been destroyed, because water reserves are
located in areas that have become dangerous orbecause of mass displacement. People ultimately
have to resort to sources o water that pose a
major health risk.
•
Installation or rehabilitation of water-supply systems in urban and ruralenvironments
•
Ensuring safe water for medicalfacilities, places of detention andcamps
•
Hygiene promotion
    C   a   r    l   o   s    R    i   o   s    /    I    C    R    C    M   a   r   ç   a    l    I   z   a   r    d    /    I    C    R    C    C   a   r    l    d   e    K   e   y   z   e   r    /    I    C    R    C
SANITATIoN ANDENVIRoNmENTAl HEAlTH
 The ICRC's sanitation activities range rominstalling human-waste disposal systemsin camps or internally displaced people, toensuring proper sewage networks in townsand villages afected by armed conict, and
organizing campaigns to promote hygiene. The
ICRC also improves sanitation in medical facilities
and places o detention.
Cultural belies and behaviour play a majorrole in the success o water and sanitationprojects. In many rural areas the ICRC makes
use o participative approaches that enable it
to take account o social aspects and to ensure
local ownership o the projects. Communityinvolvement is vital to the sustainability o 
its work.
 The evacuation of waste water and the disposal
of refuse are often the most intractable sanitation
problems encountered in places o detention.
A large proportion o the diseases observed
among inmates are either water-borne or due
to overcrowding. To keep the detainees in
good health, the ICRC pays special attention to
waste-disposal systems and, in various countries,
supports vector-control measures. It also
takes preventive action to ensure that human
waste, waste water and reuse are removedto areas where they can be treated and thus
rendered harmless.
•
Sanitation in camps
•
Management of waste in places of detention
•
Emergency response to outbreaks of water-borne diseases
•
Management of medical waste inhospitals
•
Vector control in places of detention
•
Waste-water treatment in urban areas
    B   o   r    i   s    H   e   g   e   r    /    I    C    R    C
 
    I    C    R    C    A    b    d   u    l    M   a    j   e   e    d    /    I    C    R    C    I    C    R    C    I    C    R    C
EmERgENCy ASSISTANCE
Wherever large numbers of people are displaced,
humanitarian organizations must not only
provide emergency aid or them but must also
take into consideration the living conditionso the resident population to limit potential
conicts between the two groups.
Displaced people, who make their way to camps
or are taken in by relatives, oten have nothing.
Most of all, they need access to safe water, sturdy
shelter and sanitary acilities to prevent the
outbreak o epidemics.
•
Installation and rehabilitation of water-distribution points in camps,along migration routes, and withinhost communities
•
Provision of sanitation and hygienefacilities (latrines and waste-collectionsystems)
•
Deployment of "water and sanitationkits" containing water bladders, pumpsand pipes
•
Support to National Societies involvedin emergency activities for displacedpeople
BuIlDINg ANDREHABIlITATIoN
In areas of growing and unplanned urbanization,public services are often inadequate, if they exist
at all. A shortage o unds and qualied human
resources are the primary reasons why essential
public inrastructure, such as hospitals, is not
properly maintained.
 The ICRC repairs and builds public acilities
and centres or housing internally displacedpeople. It also helps develop basic inrastruc-
ture in places of detention, creating a safe and
hygienic environment.
•
Improvement of essential buildingsand infrastructure
•
Rehabilitation of, and support to,health infrastructure and centres forinternally displaced people
•
Rehabilitation of roads, dams, rain-watercatchments and irrigation schemes
ENERgy SupplyAND ENVIRoNmENT
Many communities are now acing increasing
pressure on their natural resources, such as fuel,coal, and wood. Where conditions are favourable,
the ICRC promotes the use o solar-powered
devices and energy-efcient stoves.
 The ICRC installs biogas systems in places o 
detention to improve the treatment o waste
water. These systems also produce methane,a gas used or cooking ood in prisons, thus
helping to reduce reliance on traditional uels.
Energy-saving solutions are implemented in
various communities to respond to humanitarianneeds while reducing the ICRC's carbon footprint
on the surrounding environment.
•
Installation of solar-powered water pumps
•
Promotion of wood-saving stoves andbiogas systems
•
Support to national energy boards inproviding electricity for water-pumpingstations

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