Central Asia (MNN) — As refugees fleeing sectarian and political violence in their home country, they sought safety in a neighboring country, only to relinquish citizen rights and human dignity.
Forgotten and barred from voting in important elections, many of the survivors in this Central Asian country barely exist, scraping out another day in camps with few resources, poor sanitation, and little access to clean drinking water. Without sufficient clean water, people go to alternative or untreated sources, which often leads to the outbreak of diseases. An outbreak in a camp spreads like wildfire.
What’s more, host countries are now voicing their protests that they can’t afford to help the refugee populations in their borders. Yet, with repatriation years away, there isn’t a place for the refugees to go. Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer details more about these people. “They’re really more internally displaced people. They’re coming from other parts of the country because of armed conflict, because of danger, because of economic insecurities, and they’re congregating into semi-urban areas.”
Governments are trying to focus on bigger, more pressing issues. That’s partly why Baptist Global Response was called in to help. Palmer says they were already in the region, having dug some deep water wells. “It’s semi-arid, and water quality and water volume is hard to get. We had some experiences over the past few years of probably 20 or 30 communities that we helped with water, and then when a need came up with the government, they began to look around and say, ‘Who could help us with these refugee areas?'”
However, several wells in one region of this Central Asian country have deteriorated over the years, and the country’s Ministry of Refugees asked BGR partners to repair them, providing clean drinking water for about 16,000 residents. Palmer says, “That’s a good thing because it shows, one: we’re being noticed for positive things. Two: it means that we have open doors to some areas that are hard-to-get-to areas, and the government itself is actually asking us to come and help them!”
Pure water is an essential part of many BGR initiatives, whether providing clean water in the aftermath of a crisis or digging wells to improve a village’s quality of life. What’s that mean? “Our people in there develop relationships,” explains Palmer, adding: “Even though you can’t do a mass evangelism or mass proclamation, those relationships that go deep and touch people where they hurt the deepest, it opens the door to all kinds of opportunity for sharing the truth, for sharing the faith.”
Using more than $41,000 in Global Hunger Relief funds, partners will work with members of each community to repair 200 wells. Many wells need new piping, pump handles, or deeper excavation due to a drop in the water table.
After making repairs, partners will also train locals to better maintain their wells so this situation will not repeat in a few years. This region, while unnamed, has multiple security problems. Other Non-Government Organizations have been forced to leave, but Palmer is quick to add: “The long-term plan is: we’ll be there as long as we can. We’ll be there when there are needs because people need water and they need to hear about Christ.”
Partners ask prayer for wisdom in choosing the 200 neighborhoods and recruiting the community’s involvement. They also ask for safety and boldness for the national believers working on this project, Palmer notes. “One of our folks said, ‘How can we leave when so many folks are in need and so many folks still having not heard?'”