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THE CHALLENGES OF WATER DELIVERY As vital as water is, providing displaced people with enough of it can often be an enormous challenge for aid workers. International guidelines, known as the Sphere standards, call for each person in an emergency to receive up to fifteen liters a day of water to meet their basic drinking, cleaning, and cooking needs. That’s just shy of four gallons—a fraction of the eighty to hundred gallons an average American uses in a day on activities like showering and flushing toilets. “At home in the U.S., we turn a faucet, and abundant, safe water comes out,” says Kenny Rae, Oxfam America’s senior adviser on public health engineering. “This is a luxury denied to countless people around the world, especially during emergencies. Water is either in short supply or contaminated, or both. Oxfam works to provide not only sufficient water but also to ensure that it is filtered or treated to ensure its safety and the health of those who use it.”

“EVERY FAMILY ENDURING THESE CRISES HAS AT LEAST ONE THING IN COMMON: THE NEED FOR CLEAN WATER AND DECENT SANITATION SERVICES.”

Delivering that precious water to displaced families living in temporary camps or scattered through urban neighborhoods requires not only hardware—pumps, pipes, storage tanks, and faucets often flown in from great distances—but logistical ingenuity. When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines last year, it caused massive damage, killing eight thousand people and forcing four million others from their homes. Among the communities particularly hard hit was the city of Tacloban. But within days of the storm, more than two hundred thousand people there were again receiving clean, safe water after Oxfam worked with the local water department to repair and reconnect the municipal supply and install new distribution points and tap stands. SANITATION AND HYGIENE ARE ESSENTIAL TO HEALTH But water is just part of the equation. Hygiene and the safe disposal of waste are just as critical to protecting lives. It may sound like a small thing, but the importance of hand-washing can’t be overstated. Stemming the spread of germs and bacteria is key to saving lives. That’s why Oxfam places so much emphasis on hygiene promotion. In South Sudan, where the fighting that erupted in December 2013 has forced more than a million people from their homes, seasonal rains have increased the misery of many—and the danger of disease. In a settlement known as Mingkamen in Lakes state, Oxfam has been digging latrines and working with a team of public-health promoters to help spread the word on hand-washing, latrine use, and community garbage collection. Among the seventy-eight promoters in Mingkamen in May was Martha Nyandeng, who fled from Bor with six children when fighting broke out. Health promoters earn a small bit of income for their work—about ten dollars a day. Nyandeng takes her work seriously, ensuring that the toilets she’s in charge of are kept clean. And she regularly provides hand-washing demonstrations to children. “I take care of this latrine as my own, not for Oxfam. I keep them clean to prevent us from getting sick,” says Nyandeng. “People are learning. It’s good because when they come to the toilet, they wash their hands, and when they go home, the bacteria is removed. They’re preventing diseases.” YOUR SUPPORT HELPS AID GROUPS RESPOND

TOP: A boy in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, washes at a community water tap built with Oxfam’s support. PHOTO: ABBIE TRAYLER-SMITH / OXFAM B OTTOM : A boy demonstrates the difference between the clean water Oxfam is now providing and the dirty water from the Nile River in Awerial settlement, South Sudan. PHOTO: GEOFF PUGH / OXFAM

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Aid groups can’t always predict when disasters will strike, but their job is to respond when they do. At Oxfam, that life-saving work depends on the support of individuals and foundations. Their donations fund essential equipment and allow Oxfam and its worldwide network of partners to spring into action when a crisis hits.

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