Water supply, hygiene conditions top priorities Thousands of people who were left homeless have gathered at makeshift sites across the city following explosions on March 3 at a munitions depot in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been evaluating the needs there since the day after the explosion. MSF has begun to distribute basic supplies, provide drinking water supplies, manage hygiene and handle waste disposal at these camps. The explosions in the munitions depot in the northeast Brazzaville neighborhood of M'Pila killed and wounded many, but also left thousands homeless. People affected by the blasts have gathered at seven makeshift sites across the city. MSF's logistics team conducted an initial evaluation at those sites in the first three days following the explosions to draw up a list of critical needs. The findings were uniform: systems for supplying water and removing human waste are minimal at best, hygiene conditions are precarious and shelter is inadequate.

Republic of Congo © MSF
MSF staff organizing water supply at one of the camps for people displaced following a series of explosions in an arms depot in Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of Congo.

"We estimate that approximately 2,000 people are living at the first three sites we visited on Monday – Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur and the Stade du Marché," says Juan H., MSF logistics coordinator in Brazzaville. "There are tents, but approximately 50 per cent of the people lack shelter. Initially, we distributed basic supplies, such as blankets and mats to protect people from the ground. We must now focus on providing water and on hygiene at these camps, which is a real concern."   MSF has begun work on a drinking water supply system at the Sacré Coeur and Notre Dame camps, which house more than 2,000 people, installing tanks with a volume of several cubic metres. Staff have started to build more latrines at the Notre Dame site. The management of wastewater, human waste and garbage is critical to prevent an epidemic during this rainy, hot weather season. In the coming days MSF teams have to discuss with other partners the strategy for water supply, building latrines and waste management. "We will definitely need to build additional latrines," Juan says. "But our priority was to hire three hygiene workers to provide health education and inform the camps' population about basic rules of hygiene [in a camp]." An emergency coordination team, made up of a nurse, a logistician and a doctor is arriving soon to provide additional support to the team on site. A health evaluation must be conducted in the camps, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. A psychologist is scheduled to begin holding sessions with disaster victims in the coming days.