Construction of a new sewerage and water supply network for Jerash refugee camp

Project completed
Wastewater seeps into the middle of the street. © SDC

Many Palestinian refugees in Jordan are permanently living in what they initially thought would be temporary shelters. Their numbers continue to grow 50 years after the arrival of the first Palestinian refugees in Jordan. The absence of adequate measures to improve living conditions led to serious health issues in Jerash camp. One of the most serious problems was limited access to safe drinking water and a centralised sanitation system. The SDC launched an ambitious project to solve this problem.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Water resources conservation
Agricultural water resources
Water sector policy
01.12.2011 - 31.03.2017
CHF 5'845'000

Jerash camp, known locally as Gaza camp, is located 50km north of Amman. Established in 1968 as an emergency camp, it currently houses some 25,000 Palestinian refugees who fled the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Unlike the majority of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, the refugees in Jerash camp have never been granted Jordanian citizenship and have very limited access to employment and health services.

Wastewater run-off in children's playgrounds
Jerash camp was one of the last refugee camps in Jordan without an underground sewerage system. Household grey water and other kinds of wastewater used to flow through open channels along every road in the camp. Diseases related to the contamination of drinking water and direct contact with wastewater were on the increase, affecting children in particular.  The filthy water on the streets meant that children could not play outdoors or even step outside their home without risking infection. In fact, three times as many children in Jerash camp were suffering from water-related diseases than in any other refugee camp in Jordan

Drinking water was available only sporadically in the camp. The dilapidated and undersized water supply network had not been upgraded since 1968, and the main form of sanitation were septic tanks dug into the ground and other kinds of tanks which were used to collect toilet wastewater. The septic tanks overflowed on a regular basis, especially during rainy periods, posing an additional threat to public health and the environment.

In December 2012, the SDC began work on the construction of an underground sewerage network and a water supply network for Jerash camp. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the Department of Palestinian Affairs, the official Jordanian body in charge of Palestinian refugees.

Equitable access to water and sanitation

The first phase of the project was completed in 2017, providing all of the camp's 2,550 households – around 25,000 people – with access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. The new underground sewerage system is expected to significantly reduce the number of cases of diarrhoea, especially among children under three years of age. The construction of the sewerage and water supply networks has also provided job opportunities for many refugees.

To ensure proper use of the new facilities, the Department of Palestinian Affairs and the SDC disseminated information and practical guidelines on water, sanitation and hygiene. The project has indirectly also benefited surrounding villages and residents of the camp who are engaged in farming because their fields are no longer contaminated by wastewater run-off.

In May 2016, the SDC handed over the management and maintenance of the new water supply and sewerage system to the Jordanian authorities.

The project aims to ensure equal access to safe drinking water as well as efficient and sustainable sanitation facilities to all of the camp’s households. © SDC