Promoting better hygiene and sanitary conditions in IDP camps
Published September 4, 2018 by Muna Ali
72-year-old Ebla Sanweyne always had to wait until dark to go out in the open to use the bathroom. The practice has been uncomfortable and painful at times. This situation is true for so many other women in Somalia as it is estimated that more than half of population lacks access to adequate sanitation facilities, most of those who practice public defecation are among the rural population.
Open defecation is an old practice in some societies and, although for some the reason for not having a toilet at home is due to lack of resources to build a latrine or a toilet, a lot has to do with a lack of awareness on the health and safety implication of this practice. Especially among the most vulnerable groups such as women and children.
Having survived starvation, families like Ebla’s in IDP camps have to fear for their safety in the place they sought sanctuary. In the absence of safety measures or mechanism to maintain law and order, a lack of toilets in IDP camps is both a health and safety risk. When women and children have to walk outside the camp to go to the bathroom it leaves them vulnerable to attacks and sexual assaults. With the recent 2018 floods in Afmadow, practicing open defecation posed a serious health hazard, which could lead to the spread of water-related diseases/AWD.
In Farjano, in the Afmadow district of Lower Juba region, the Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF) and Adeso responded to the water hygiene sanitation crisis in the IDPs and returnees’ camps by constructing sanitation facilities such as latrines and handwashing sinks at the front of the latrines. This intervention aims to enable the camp residents to relieve themselves without risking their safety especially after darkness and preventing hygiene and sanitation-related diseases that could lead to a health crisis.
“We knew from the start that people would immensely benefit from the latrines, we now have a place that gives us privacy and convenience thanks to the project,” says Dahir, one of the camp's residents.
To effectively tackle the open defecation, building toilets is only half of the solution. The need to raise awareness and bring about the necessary behavioral change towards open defecation is absolutely necessary. Therefore, the project conducted a hygiene and sanitation training campaign where the camp residents were trained in healthy practices such as handwashing and using the latrine instead of continuing the open defecation practice.
“We were given a training on the how to properly wash our hands. We were taught that not washing our hands after the using the bathroom will spread diseases and so maybe having a toilet will not make all that difference in preventing the outbreak of the disease,” explained Ebla.
 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2008