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Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan, 3 March 2015 – The Ministry of Water and Irrigation and UNICEF launched today a cost efficient mobile waste water treatment unit at the Za’atari refugee camp.

“This project is a model of international cooperation. We were able to move quickly with the support from UNICEF and donors such as Germany, Japan, UK, US and the European Commission,” said the Minister of Water and Irrigation H.E. Dr. Hazem Al Naser at the opening event. “Jordan, with all its challenges, has made big strides to come up with strategic solutions to address water scarcity and waste water treatment in the Kingdom. Hopefully this unique project will also be applicable in other places in Jordan,” the minister added.

With a population of over 80,000 women, children and men, Za’atari is one of the largest refugee camps in the world. One of the key challenges in managing the welfare of the refugees and the environment of the area, is the safe management of wastewater.

For the last three years, one of UNICEF’s major undertakings, besides water supply and sanitation services in the camp, has been to ensure that waste water is efficiently collected and treated. Every day some 30 trucks transport over 2,000 metric tons of waste water to the Al Akaidar treatment plant about 45 kilometers away from the camp.

Costs efficiency key for sustaining humanitarian support

“Waste water treatment has been an expensive but critical part of our water and sanitation services in the camp. Jordan is one of the most water scarce countries in the world and we need to ensure that the country’s valuable underground water resources is protected from contamination,” said the UNICEF Representative Robert Jenkins. “With the Syrian crisis close to a fourth year, the mobile waste water treatment units is one of the many cost efficient and sustainable interventions that we’re introducing in the camps,” Jenkins added.

The current waste water trucking operation costs UNICEF approximately USD 3.6 million annually. The introduction of the mobile waste water treatment units will cut costs by almost five times, to about USD 0.7 million a year.

The Mobile Wastewater Treatment Units comprises two independently operated units which work in tandem. The Trickling Filter (TF) unit trickles pre-settled wastewater over a biological filter and as the water migrates through the pores of the filter, organics are degraded by the biofilm which covers the filter material. The second unit called the Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) has micro filters membranes that separates out liquid from solids. The combined daily treatment capacity of the two units is approximately 3,500 metric tons, more than adequate to treat waste water from the camp.

Besides being a cost effective and sustainable water treatment system, the mobile units will decrease the number of trucks plying inside the camp, contributing to the overall improvement of the Za’atari camp environment – reducing pollution, as well as the risk of traffic accidents. Plans are also underway to use the treated water for irrigation of Alfalfa and other crops.

The construction of the Mobile Wastewater Treatment Units took about seven months to complete and was spearheaded by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and UNICEF, under the direct management and supervision of the Water Authority of Jordan. (WAJ). The project is funded by the Government of Germany (implemented by KFW), the Governments of Japan, United Kingdom and the United States as well as the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

“UNICEF is grateful for the continued support from donors and partners, and we will maintain our focus on innovative interventions to ensure that vulnerable children and families continue to access critical lifesaving services in Jordan,” said Jenkins.

For more information, please contact:

  • Miraj Pradhan, UNICEF: Tel: +962 (0) 790 214 191,
  • Samir Badran, UNICEF: Tel: +962 (0) 796 926 180,
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