October 7, 2011
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is charged with the care of refugees and other displaced persons worldwide. In many cases, the care for such populations is an effort in providing basic needs and little else. UNHCR is often challened by lacking political support, under staffing, and the unavoidable and obvious turbulent nature of many crises. Providing clean drinking water is one of the primary goals for UNHCR to all populations. This is typically a difficult task which is made worse by a myriad of factors.
The SMU lab headed by Dr. Andrew Quicksall has recently entered into a research partnership with UNHCR to address water quality in refugee camps. This work will provide solutions.
First, a water quality database will be built to act as a center for all water quality data collected by UNHCR or any number of its implementing partners. The SMU team will collect and analyze water samples from camps but will also integrate data from numerous other sources. This tool will provide both UN camp operators as well as administrators access to data world-wide. It will provide quick and easy reports that will highlight problems. These “report cards” can then be paired to specific remediation solutions.
In addition to the exhaustive collection and analysis work, Quicksall’s research team will also work on remediation solutions for specific contaminants of concern. The database initiative will help in identifying new contaminant problems but, for now, some preliminary data exists that show three specific issues which affect the long-term health of refugees: iodide in Dadaab, Kenya, iron in Southern Uganda, and fluoride in Southern Uganda and Kakuma, Kenya. All three of these problems are already being addressed in lab based experiments at SMU and will be implemented as field pilot studies later in the year.