Photos by Lynette Nyman, IFRC
Out in the blazing heat and humidity of Cox’s Bazar camps, it is a race against time for final pre-monsoon preparations to be made. The storm clouds are coming.
As short bursts of rainfall begin to herald the coming of monsoon, communities who have fled violence in Rakhine in Myanmar and who are now living in the camps are helping the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) drill deep tube wells at a new site. There, 2,000 people who are most at risk from imminent monsoon rains will be moved.
Mohammed Ayas, who lives in the camp and serves as a community volunteer with the IFRC water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion team helps to sort out supplies such as pipes, fittings and tools kept at the team’s workshop.
Lungis (a type of wrap) and bare feet are standard wear for men drilling wells. Even when the sky darkens and rain pours, they keep on working to beat the coming monsoon season.
To ensure the well produces enough water, the hole needs to reach 180 meters (600 feet) below the surface of the ground.
The well drillers rely on Mohammed Atik, a worker’s son, to make a fire, and then cook a meal of potatoes, other vegetables, and rice, following hours of hard work in bitter heat, humidity and sometimes heavy rain.
During soil analysis, IFRC’s water, sanitation and hygiene promotion engineer Sam Cleary looks for loam, a sign of reaching the aquitard, a natural filter layer between the shallow and deep aquifers. “Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion is health,” says Cleary. “Safe water from deep wells can be contaminated by dirty buckets and hands. A gravity water flow with central treatment and taps is better, but we have to move quickly for people to move here before the monsoon.”
Even a one-hour downpour in this area creates ponds in low-lying areas around camps. The monsoon will bring ongoing heavy rain, threatening thousands of lives with flood, landslide and disease outbreak, especially through bacterial contamination of shallow water. To reduce risks, IFRC has increased stocks of chlorine tablets and purification sachets for treating water for drinking and cooking.
Nojimur Rahman, who’s displaced from Myanmar and living in the camps, works with Sam Cleary on soil profile analysis. The deep well team has people from Myanmar and Bangladesh working together for safe water.