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Step with refugees

By the end of 2018, 70.8 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes worldwide. Access to water is a daily struggle for many refugees living in camps or urban areas.

Refugees may have to walk to the nearest borehole to get their allotted portion of water, waiting behind dozens of other refugees engaging in the same activity.

UNHCR has set a target of 200m as the longest distance to borehole.

The minimum amount of water UNHCR aims to provide to each refugee camp is 20 liters (~ 5 gallons) per person per day. In contrast, an individual in the European Union consumes 128 liters of water per day; in the United States, that number is over 300 liters (~79 gallons ).

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This project was made for the Fall 2019 UNHCR Hackathon.

All the data used in the project was provided by UNHCR.


Design Challenge :

How can we share this different reality with Americans in a way that is compelling and meaningful?

How can American people help refugees with their water problems?

Water access

for refugees vs. Americans


Emma is 28 years old. She lives in New York City and works in a startup. She cares about the environment. She recycles everything, and her goal is to make zero waste. She follows the political news and struggles to be optimistic about the future. 


Adam is 34 years old, and he lives in San Fransisco. He works is a software eng and loves hiking. He always owns the most up-to-date devices. He has a Twitter account and reads the news every day.


Kelly is a 45 year-old mother. She is a homemaker with two daughters and lives in Chicago. She loves to exercise and go to yoga classes. She volunteers in charities to help lower-income people in her community.


EMMA wants to make a difference but she thinks she cannot afford to help other people.

ADAM is tired of replying to tweets to defend refugees' rights. He wants to help them beyond the screens but he is too busy with his work.

Being a full-time mom takes all of KELLY's time. She wants to give more to the people who are in need, but lacks information about situations abroad.

A Behavior Model
BJ Fogg

  • Make a Change

  • Help the others

  • Bring awareness

  • Own / can afford a smartwatch and a smartphone

  • Ability to walk

Directly help refugees without losing time or money.


UNHCR aims to have 200m as the longest distance to the borehole. = 262 steps each trip => 524 steps round trip

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Smart Watch plugin
Smart phone App

The watch counts your steps. When you reach the steps required to walk to gather all the water for your family if you were living in a refugee camp, your smartwatch company makes a donation to UNHCR for water pipeline construction.

You sign up and enter your household size so the app can calculate the daily steps needed.

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  • User-friendly 

  • There is no need to check the app regularly. The app sends a notification to your smartwatch and lets you know how many people in your family you have gathered water for that day.

  • Living your own life and walking around, you can make a change on the other side of a planet without losing money.

Next Steps:
  • Expand the app and plugin to illustrate more struggles that refugees are facing. When we have pipelines in every refugee camp, what are the next steps? Homes, jobs, etc.

Thank you for

Walking with us

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