Friday, September 7, 2012

Ethiopia: Sanitation & Hygiene Key to Good Health in Boqolmayo Refugee Camp

Halimo Ali cares for her four young children alone, since her husband died in the brutal conflict that still rages in her native Somalia. In 2011 she fled drought and violence, making the 8 day journey by truck to Boqolmayo refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Once at the camp Halimo was deeply concerned that she needed to repeatedly take her children to the medical clinic for treatment as they were constantly falling ill and suffering from malnutrition.
Boqolmayo camp was built to accommodate 20,000 refugees, yet today nearly 40,000 people live there, placing a massive strain on the water supply and sanitation services in the camp. Diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices such as skin diseases, eye infections, diarrhoea and intestinal worms were a frequent feature of life in the camp.
Since March 2012 International Medical Corps, with generous support from UNOCHA and UNHCR, began a series of activities in Boqolmayo camp to improve the hygiene and sanitation infrastructure and promote behavioural change amongst refugees.

The jerry can used by Halimo and her family before International Medical Corps cleaned and disinfected it. A dirty water vessel increases the risk of contracting water-related diseases.
Prior to the visit to her home by International Medical Corps trained Community Hygiene Promoters (CHP) Halimo had been fetching water using an old and dirty jerry can. She had no idea that this could be linked to the recurring bouts of diarrhoea that her children had been suffering.
The CHPs advised Halimo about proper hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing at critical times, proper utilisation of latrines, safe solid and liquid waste disposal and proper storage and handling of water. Following this visit, Halimo started to attend International Medical Corps’ awareness raising tea talks and for the last three month has been cleaning her compound, washing her and her children’s hands using soap  and is cleaning her Jerry cans every other day.
“My children are healthy and growing well, and my first child is now in school!!!” says Halimo.

International Medical Corps implements similar hygiene and sanitation programmes in the Kobe and Melkadida refugee camps in Ethiopia. These programmes are particularly targeted towards families with children under 5 years old and those suffering from acute malnutrition as these groups are particularly vulnerable to diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices. 

By Ibrahim Tareke, Hygiene Promotion Manager, Boqolmayo

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