In December 2017, when Ayaa Kevin arrived in Pakabek Refugee Settlement she carried little except her four children and a few bedsheets, a jerry can and some sauce pans for cooking. She was among the countless South Sudanese refugees that had left everything behind, walked long distances in sweltering heat, and endured unbearable hardship in order to reach the safety of the Ugandan border. When Ayaa first arrived at Palabek, water was being trucked in from a nearby river on weekly basis and families had to stock enough to last until the next truck arrived. Soon Kevin began noticing skin infections on her children from the water.

Ayaa Kevin accessing safe water provided by RAIN.

The South Sudanese humanitarian crisis has driven over 2.2 million people from their homes and across the borders into neighboring countries. Many of these refugees have fled to Uganda, which currently hosts over 1 million refugees. In 2017, The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) partnered with Drop in the Bucket, in an effort to contribute to addressing critical issue of water access. Now Ayaa is among the thousands of people who have reliable access to safe water.

Through the RAIN project, Drop in the Bucket targeted improving water access for the growing refugee population at Palabek Refugee Settlement, the newest refugee settlement in Uganda established in 2017, and Lobule Refugee Settlement, which opened in 2013. The project also ensured that host communities previously lacking water access received benefits from the project, mitigating the risk of any potential conflict over water between the refugees and host communities.

Children accessing safe water in Palabek Refugee Settlement provided by RAIN.

This March, the RAIN project successfully concluded, resulting in the construction of 33 boreholes and handpumps, providing safe water access to nearly 22,000 individuals. Several of the highest yielding boreholes constructed by Drop in the Bucket are being targeted by the refugee settlement authorities to feed into an even larger distribution network that could reach many more individuals.

Olanya Amos, a local medic and a resident of the nearby Ugandan community of Langol Village attests to the transformative impact of these boreholes, claiming that the n earby improved water sources have allowed community members to reduce their dependence on unprotected springs and spend more time cultivating their crops. Since the RAIN project was completed, he has not had to treat a single case of diarrhea, an indication of the improved quality of the water.

In order to ensure long-term sustainability of the project impacts, the RAIN project trained water management committees in record keeping, finance management and pump maintenance. Upon hearing about the new boreholes, Bayiga Ratib, a resident of Lobule Refugee Settlement, signed up to be a member of the water users committee and volunteered to be trained as a hand pump mechanic so he could be involved in the operation and maintenance of this important community asset. 

One of the wells that Drop in the Bucket drilled in Lokung—a community within Palabek Refugee Settlement—yielded such high amounts of water that Palabek’s management decided to make it a reception center for the entire settlement. Now, people who arrive at Palabek after countless days traveling on foot are able to receive their first drink of safe water in days. While many challenges and hardships still lie ahead, such a drink of water brings with it a chance, however modest, of a new beginning.

The Coca-Cola Foundation introduced the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) in 2009, in response to the severe water challenges faced by nearly 300 million Africans living without access to clean water. To date, RAIN has reached more than three million people with improved water access, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) across 41 countries. By the end of 2020, RAIN aims to measurably improve the lives of at least six million people in Africa through sustainable WASH interventions.