Bringing water, sanitation and hygiene to displaced families living in camps in Pakistan
By Antonia Paradela
Jalozai Camp, Pakistan, February 2009 – It is a bright, warm winter morning and boys and girls are gathered around two women in Jalozai Camp near Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The women, who work as hygiene promoters for Society for Sustainable Development (SSD), a UNICEF implementing partner in the camp, show the children pictures depicting good and bad practices when it comes to hygiene.
The session is lively as Dilshad Begum asks the children to assess what is shown in the pictures: food covered by flies, a child’s dirty hands dipping into a container with drinking water, a ladle used to serve the drinking water. Dilshad Begum and her colleagues spend their working days like this: sharing crucial information with families so that they can protect themselves with hygienic measures from water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases. To reach the women living in the camp, they hold sessions in tents, following the tradition of seclusion or purdah, or gather children in the open. The hygiene promoters working in various camps hold 76 such sessions every day.
“By supporting the provision of safe drinking water, latrines and bathing facilities, and holding regular awareness sessions on hygiene, UNICEF wants to create the right conditions in the camp to avert disease,” says Sabahat Ambreen, a UNICEF Water, Environment and Sanitation Officer working in NWFP.Laila Gohar Ali, a girl of about eight years of age, follows the session with attention. As with many women and children from the tribal areas, she does not know her age. The sixth of seven children Laila was attending second grade in Mohmand Agency when she was displaced by fighting between militants and government forces. She and family first went to stay with relatives in a nearby district, and have recently moved to Jalozai, formerly an Afghan refugee camp, and now host to about 28,000 internally displaced people who have fled conflict in north-western regions of Pakistan. Since August 2008, over 320,000 people have been displaced, a majority of them children. Like Laila's family, most took shelter with host families, but as savings declined, many have moved into camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
The girl enjoyed the session: “I learn how to use a latrine and how to keep myself clean and the importance of hand washing with soap,” she says. Shortly afterwards she puts the lesson into practice, helping her younger brother wash his hands thoroughly in a nearby washing area set up with UNICEF support.
Not far from here, a laboratory technician is testing the quality of the water provided in the camp by UNICEF's implementing partner Islamic Relief. Water is tested daily to ensure that there is no contamination that could affect the health of the children in the camp. UNICEF provides water and sanitation facilities to more than 50,000 IDPs in camps and almost 60,000 IDPs living outside the camps in host communities, and has supported the construction of 3,300 latrines.
“By supporting the provision of safe drinking water, latrines and bathing facilities, and holding regular awareness sessions on hygiene, UNICEF wants to create the right conditions in the camp to avert disease,” says Sabahat Ambreen, a UNICEF Water, Environment and Sanitation Officer working in NWFP.
UNICEF works with partners to improve living conditions for displaced women and children. This includes access to safe drinking water and sanitation, setting up schools and child-friendly spaces, and supporting health interventions such as ensuring that mothers and children receive appropriate immunisation and nutrition.
Of the 320,000 people displaced by conflict, 70,000 live in camps. UNICEF also reaches out to those who live with host communities in NWFP, and recently worked with the education authorities to establish second shift schooling facilities for displaced children.
To continue supporting the displaced families till December 2009, UNICEF needs US$ 22 million, of which it has only received US$ 6 million.
“UNICEF must be ready to assist displaced families and those who may join them in the coming months as it seems unlikely that the situation will improve soon," says UNICEF Pakistan representative, Martin Mogwanja. "UNICEF's mandate is to provide these children and women with the safe environment and essential services they need, therefore we are appealing to donors to support this effort."