Saving Refugees in Nigeria: Part One

We are never at a shortage for thirsty communities contacting us, requesting assistance for safe water. This year, WaterStep intentionally focused on developing sustainable relationships through multi-phase projects with well-vetted partners. International partners have to complete applications, proving their dedication to the long-term project, and agree to continue to provide data on the outcomes of WaterStep’s water, health, and sanitation solutions. Currently, we are working with 14+ partners, and hope to add 10 more in 2017.
One of these partnerships is with an organization, Victims of Violence, in Nigeria. Victim of Violence works to provide aid and relief to refugees who are fleeing for their lives from the Boko Haram insurgency. These are some of the world’s most vulnerable people. WaterStep has been training Victims of Violence through our Virtual Classroom, eliminating the cost of travel, which allows us to send more technology and provide support when needed.
This is a very special project and partnership. What good is it to flee for our lives, only to die of unsafe water? Louisville’s own, Chris Kenning, is currently in Nigeria, gathering the stories of these refugees, and their journey for longer, fuller, healthier lives. This his first report:

It’s been called one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters – millions of Nigerians in makeshift camps, homes destroyed by war and crowded into host communities without enough aid.
And it’s the latest global hotspot where Louisville’s WaterStep is working to save lives with safe water.
From half a world away, WaterStep is training and equipping a Nigerian charity to bring safe water and sanitation to camps for the displaced, and former war zones, torn by Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency.
My name is Chris Kenning, and I’ve written about WaterStep’s response to disasters in Haiti and the Philippines as a Courier-Journal reporter. But this time, I’ll be visiting Nigeria as a WaterStep volunteer – helping WaterStep document its own story.
This month, I’m accompanying WaterStep’s Nigerian partner charity, Victims of Violence, to towns like Maiduguri, Bama, Mongonu and other hard-to-reach areas near the Cameroon border, where they’re looking to install sustainable water chlorinators that can provide 10,000 gallons of safe water a day, and disperse bleach-making devices for sanitation to a population in dire need.
The Nigerian military’s 2015 offensive has gained ground against Boko Haram, which has been terrorizing Nigeria since 2009. Most people know them from the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls, which sparked the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement. Recently, the military has declared many once-inaccessible cities and towns in the northeast part of the country to be liberated.
But last month, the Washington Post reported that in its wake “more than 3 million people displaced and isolated by the militants are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned.” Underfunded aid groups are struggling to meet the need.
More than a million are living in camps, bombed-out buildings and burdened communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations, the Post reported. Twice as many residents are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas, the report said.
Clean water and sanitation are a big problem, per charity groups in Nigeria. WaterStep has begun to help with simple, sustainable and small safe water devices, which are helping by sidestepping the expense and logistics of transporting massive amounts of bottled water into remote areas.
It’s part of WaterStep’s belief that the best, most sustainable solutions to water, health, and sanitation problems are rooted in simple tools and effective training."

Please follow along as we post updates at, and stay tuned at throughout the rest of the year for stories and photos about those WaterStep is helping in one of the globe’s high-profile trouble spots.
And here’s how to help:

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