The tragic circumstances confronting nearly 900,000 refugees in Somalia have resulted in bold experiment with solar pumps for bringing clean water to thousands of thirsty, hungry people.
At present, thousands of refugees have to go to nearby riverbeds for water, risking waterborne diseases that are rampant in the area of the 33 camps.
The solar pumps are being donated to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by the Deautsche Welthungerhilfe, the West German voluntary agency. Experiments conducted by the British-based Oxfan relief agency have shown that the pump appears to be the best answer to the refugees pressing need for clean, potable water.
"Sanitary conditions are such that contamination of existing water sources has been inevitable," said tom Majors, the American information officer for the UN High Commissioner, who stopped over in Nairobi recently.
"The photovoltaic cells in the solar pumps generate enough electrical power to lift water from down to five meters. During overcast conditions the pump will cease, but begins pumping again as soon as the sun returns."
But the average of "good sun" is 10 hours a day in this area of Somalia. Under optimum conditions, the pumps can produce up to nine cubic meters of water an hour each from a ground water level of three meters. The water is to be stored in 45,000-liter "swimming pool" containers, which, if the need arises, allow for chlorination of the water. The water will be distributed from the containers to the refugees by pipes.
Each pump can provide enough potable water for the needs of 9,000 people. The number of pumps needed is not yet known but it is the first time they have appeared in Easd Africa and there is potential for a much wider application.
Meanwhile, concern that there would not be enough fuel oil, particularly diesel fuel, available to transport food and medicines to the refugees was dispelled by Mr. Majors.
He said that arrangements had been made for fuel supplies until the end of the year by means of direct deliveries from Holland and Djibouti. The camps require some 12,700 liters of diesel fuel a day for trucks and lorries.