Sanitation gaps make Darfur ripe for disease outbreaks affecting children
Khartoum, 15 July 2004 – UNICEF reported today that while almost half of the 1 million displaced persons in Sudan’s Darfur region have access to safe water, poor sanitation conditions still pose great risk to tens of thousands of children.
The National Water Corporation, Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other agencies have been carrying out hygiene education activities when new water points are opened for the displaced population. But the effort to improve conditions in the camps must be re-doubled, said UNICEF’s acting Representative for Sudan, Cecilio Adorna.
“With the onset of the rainy season, the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases increases exponentially,” Adorna said. “Hygiene is vital to the survival and well-being of the children and their families. Given the circumstances it is not easy for families to maintain even a minimal level of cleanliness, but there is real urgency now. Decent hygiene and sanitation will save lives.”
As the sector convenor for water and sanitation, UNICEF is coordinating with Medair, OXFAM, CARE, Save the Children, ICRC and other organizations to provide both clean water and sanitation facilities. The facilities are generally pit latrines, a hole usually 3 metres deep by 1 metre wide. A cement block is placed on top and thatch walls provide privacy.
An earlier target of providing 2,000 latrines by the end of August was surpassed by mid July with 3,674 latrines built. The target was increased to 10,000 latrines with the Government’s National Water Corporation expanding its commitment to the effort.
UNICEF has been actively pursuing the involvement of the private sector for construction of latrines and drilling for water. However many companies remain reluctant to take part due to ongoing insecurity.
Even 10,000 latrines is not adequate, however. As latrines fill, they become less desirable to use and pose a greater hazard to health, especially during the rainy season. Camp populations are also frequently shifting, meaning that many locations will require additional facilities. For example, Adorna said that over a two-week period, the population in Kalma camp in South Darfur increased from 20,000 to over 50,000, straining the existing services.
A concerted hygiene education campaign will begin next week in West Darfur to improve awareness of good hygiene practices. The National Water Corporation and its state branches, the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and several international and national non-government organizations including the Sudanese Red Crescent, Medair, OXFAM will deliver bars of soap, chlorine tablets and posters in the major locations where people have gathered.
“Two points are clear,” Adorna added. “First, sanitation is the top priority and UNICEF is putting every available resource into this. Second, if the hygiene effort is to succeed in saving lives, more partners are needed in this work.”
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