Families fleeing war are now struggling to survive critical shortages of clean water.

In refugee camps in southern Sudan, the clean water ration has dropped to just 7.5 litres per day for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene – the same amount of water used for a single toilet flush here in Australia.

“We cannot wash ourselves or our clothes. If we did, we would not have enough water to drink,” says Jaiwan Reik.

Jaiwan’s family is among the 760,000 South Sudanese refugees who have escaped north to Sudan. When their camp’s water treatment system runs dry, Jaiwan has no choice but to supplement her small ration with dirty water from the White Nile River.

This is disastrous for a family that is already extremely vulnerable. Waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery are not only very common in this region but can be life-threatening, especially in children. Jaiwan's 18-month-old daughter already suffers from constant bouts of diarrhoea.

Young woman carrying water on her head | Clean water crisis appeal

With clean water rations at critically low levels, refugees have no choice but to collect polluted river water. © UNHCR/Sebastian Rich

As well as this, the annual rainy season threatens to make conditions even more desperate. 

Families need immediate access to safe water. They also need proper sanitation facilities – only half of all refugees in Sudan have access to a toilet.

Without urgent action, a disease outbreak could affect thousands of families at any time.

Your gift today will help UNHCR:

  • provide water purification sachets to protect families from disease
  • build more household latrines with safe drainage
  • set up and operate safe water systems for refugee camps


Young boy drinking water from a jerry can | Clean water crisis appeal

Severe shortages of clean water in Sudan’s refugee camps is forcing people to drink polluted river water. ©Australia for UNHCR

Your donations in action

Water treatment and distribution systems in camps bring safe water to refugees.

Water Water

Clean water saves lives.

Water Water

Water purification sachets reduce the risk of waterborne disease.

Water Water

More latrines will improve basic hygiene and sanitation in refugee camps. 

Water Water

Get the facts about our impact

Young boy collecting water from a tip-i-tap | Clean water crisis appeal
Water Water Water
Medicine Medicine Medicine
Supplies Supplies Supplies

Providing Water

When people flee their homes, they often struggle to safely and easily access adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, endangering their health. UNHCR provides extensive infrastructure in refugee camps – wells, pumps, tap-stands and latrines – to meet refugees’ water needs and prevent disease. The water containers we provide as part of our basic survival kit enable displaced families to fetch and store clean water.

Providing Medication

UNHCR facilitates access to basic healthcare for refugees through camp clinics and local healthcare providers. Priority health services include emergency medical care for those who have suffered violence, reproductive services and treatment for infants and the elderly. UNHCR also coordinates immunisation programs to prevent the spread of diseases in crowded refugee settings.

Providing Supplies

UNHCR distributes life-sustaining items such as mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, stoves and fuel, soap and other sanitary items to refugees under its care. These supplies are tailored to the specific needs of the refugee population: for example, winterisation kits are distributed in camps and communities where sub-zero temperatures occur. UNHCR maintains global stockpiles of core relief items for immediate delivery in emergency situations.

5 ways clean water changes lives


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