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Scaling up safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices for Rohinyas to prevent diarrhoeal diseases

Water and sanitation
© UNICEF/UN0120150/Brown
Children draw water from a pump in the Kutupalong Makeshift Settlement for Rohingya refugees in Ukhiya, a sub-district of Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh.

By Faria Selim

Cox’s Bazar, October 10, 2017: Safe water and sanitation has been the most urgent basic services for the Rohingyas since the beginning of the current influx. Scarcity of safe water, sanitation and lack of proper hygiene practices among the Rohingya population in the camps and in makeshift settlements do not only hamper daily chores but also expose them to life threatening diarrhoeal diseases.

The hilly terrane of Kutupalong south extension makeshift Rohingya settlement is no exception. The remoteness of the place further intensifies the water scarcity. “Sometimes we don’t have any other option but to drink water from the streams or water that is logged on the ground. Water sources are scarce and the nearest one is almost one hour walk from where I live. With my two toddlers, it is not always easy to get water from far off places. My kids are still sick drinking open water,” says Fatema Begum, a mother of two, holding her son Md. Ershad in her hands. Ershad got released from the hospital only three days ago, suffering from diarrhoea.  The case is almost similar in all the households, where children are suffering the most.

To address this desperation, UNICEF and its partners in the WASH sector, are doing everything possible to step up safe water supply, improve sanitation and hygiene practices in the Rohingya makeshift settlements and camps.

With help of NGO Fourm, OXFAM, Water Aid, DSK and VERC, UNICEF is targeting to install over 500 deep and shallow tube-wells to provide over 170,600 people with safe water. Among these, 140 tube-wells have already been installed. Meanwhile, UNICEF in collaboration with the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) is providing 70,000 litters of water everyday through water carrying trucks and water treatment plants to 28,000 people in Unchiprang and Leda makeshift settlements. The outreach will further be increased to 165,000 people soon.

“We are installing the tube-wells in areas where people specially the women can reach more easily. We also ensure that the areas are at least 30 feet away from the latrines to avoid any contamination. While sinking the tube-wells, we strictly conform to the UNICEF standards and ensure sinking the deep tube-wells 700-800 feet and the shallow ones 100 feet deep for getting safe water,” says Mosharraf Hossain, Project Manager, NGO Forum. As he continues, “These tube-wells will be life saving for the Rohingyas, especially the children living here.”    

For promoting safe sanitation practice, UNICEF with its partner NGOs have already supported building 1999 latrines serving almost 100,000 people while targeting to scale up to 3300. Hand in hand, UNICEF and its partners are ready for running hygiene sessions focusing on water safety plans, importance of consuming safe water, handwashing and refraining from open defecation, personal and menstrual hygiene. Also, 2282 hygiene kits have already been distributed reaching out to 11,410 people. 

While access to clean water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene are measures to cholera control, vaccination works as a supplement to the life saving protection against cholera. Led by the Ministry of Health and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF is going to run a massive cholera immunization campaign in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to protect newly arrived Rohingya and host communities from the life-threatening diarrheal disease. 900 000 doses of the vaccine have been mobilized and are being delivered by more than 200 mobile vaccination teams, making it the second largest oral cholera vaccination campaign ever.

The first round of the campaign will cover 650,000 people aged one year and older. The second round will commence on 31 October and will target 250,000 children between one and five years with an additional dose of the vaccine for added protection.

UNICEF is also initiating awareness session among the community and religious leaders to mobilize the campaign outreach. These leaders will in terns will sensitize people and influence them to come and vaccinated themselves and their children against the killer cholera.  

“These tube-wells that are being installed here are a great relief to see. Now we will get safe water easily. I hope with this safe water and the cholera vaccines our children will be safe from diseases”, says Fatema with a sigh of relief, while watching the tube-well installation process at Kutupalong camp.  



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