World Water Day – IOM Supports Access to Safe Drinking Water

Clean water can save lives in emergencies, and is essential for sustaining recovery after crises.

Access to safe drinking water is a human right and is the primary driver of the International Organization for Migration’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions. Such access also enables other components of effective WASH responses. IOM-WASH programmes are designed to reach those most in need, especially crisis-affected populations in hard-to-reach locations. Aiming to “leave no one behind” is the expressed theme for World Water Day 2019 (22 March).

IOM provides safe drinking water around the world through infrastructure interventions: by providing items and products for water storage and treatment at household or community level; or through the facilitation of water access through vouchers or water trucking, according to the needs in any given operation. IOM aims to ensure unrestricted and equitable access to safe and affordable water for those in need, complementing the providing of safe water with information about appropriate sanitation practices and the systematic promotion of good hygiene.

In South Sudan, IOM provides safe water through surface water treatment systems and borehole water supply systems for over 150,000 IDPs who have sought refuge in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites within the UN peace keeping missions. In 2018 IOM built a massive solar-powered water supply system for the Rohingya’s in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh — providing 500 m³ of water per day, reaching 30,000 beneficiaries and ensuring each the minimum of 15 litres per person per day required in an emergency. In Ethiopia, are assisted in accessing safe water through the distribution of water containers and water purification tablets.

Solar-powered water supply system in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Protection of the environment and the sustainable use of water resources are considered a key elements of IOM’s WASH interventions. Starting in 2016, IOM South Sudan launched a comprehensive groundwater monitoring programme, which includes data acquisition from production wells at the PoC site. The evaluation aims to collect information on the seasonal impact on water levels in the site’s aquifers and to prevent misuse of this crucial natural resource. In Bangladesh, IOM works to provide enough safe water at the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, to support the almost 1,000,000 refugees settled there, by gathering data to ensure sustainable groundwater management and ensure that its aquifers are never depleted.

Along with the provision of safe water and its related infrastructures, IOM interventions include preventing discriminatory practices and beliefs which could worsen existing gender inequalities and prevent women and girls from having access to water and sanitation facilities. For IOM, it is fundamental that women are included and allowed to take the lead as members of Water Management Committees. Even more, they also are involved in the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of water access points.

Universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water is one of the main objectives of IOM WASH interventions; the organization is committed to guaranteeing inclusion and fighting inequalities that principally affect women, girls, disabled people, refugees, and internally displaced people who are more often the poorest and the most marginalized when it comes to their basic human rights to water. They should never be left behind.

For more information on WASH activities, visit:

For more information on migration and water, visit: