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UNICEF Nepal support helps maintain sanitation and hygiene at relief camps

© UNICEF Nepal 2008/Shrestha
After Kushaha village in Nepal was inundated by floodwaters in August, people had too flee their homes and leave all their belongings behind.

By Ashma Shrestha Basnet & John Brittain

MADHUBAN VILLAGE, Nepal, 24 September 2008 – One day earlier this month, Lalita Kumari Sah, 6, returned with a jar of potable water to the makeshift camp where her family resides. Their house was inundated when the Saptakoshi River burst its banks in August, flooding great swathes of the Nepali and Indian countryside.

Lalita had tagged along with her neighbours and walked for two hours to fetch the water. “My daughter had to walk through knee-deep, dirty water to reach the water pump,” said her father. “We did not have any drinkable water sources or latrines here.”

Hundreds of displaced families pitched tarpaulins as tents on the river bank. Drinking water facilities in this settlement were minimal, so people had to either use the contaminated floodwater or walk as far as Lalita did to get drinking water. The situation was worsened by open defecation around the settlement area due to the absence of toilets.

With support from UNICEF, however, conditions are improving.

Hygiene campaign makes a difference

Female community health volunteers have been raising awareness of the hygiene dangers and how to use toilets at this camp and others, but it was a more difficult job before UNICEF’s hygiene campaign began.

© UNICEF Nepal 2008/Shrestha
Women at a relief camp in Nepal take turns using a water pump to wash cooking utensils.

“I literally had to shout at people to use toilets,” said one camp volunteer. “Things only started to improve after we began implementing UNICEF’s campaign on hygiene and sanitation.”

UNICEF has mobilized 80 hygiene volunteers and helpers in 27 temporary shelters to spread the message on hygiene. They are using hand-held loud speakers to disseminate messages to each family, since almost no one has access to other media such as radios, televisions or newspapers.

To further secure the environment in the camps, UNICEF has supported construction of 400 temporary latrines, 120 tube wells with hand pumps, 100 garbage pits and over 200 bathing spaces for women and adolescent girls.

UNICEF has also distributed 312,000 water-purifying Aquatabs, and quarter of a million sachets of PUR to sterilize water, as well as 8,000 family hygiene kits and over 14,000 water buckets.

Quality of life improves

© UNICEF Nepal 2008/Shrestha
Nepali children at a temporary relief camp for flood victims eat a meal provided by the government.

With these interventions from UNICEF, coupled with the relief provided by the government and other humanitarian agencies, life has become a little less harsh and a lot safer for the people living in the shelters. In many cases, safe water is now available nearby, and clean toilets and private spaces for women and girls are at hand.

And now that Lalita no longer has to walk for hours to fetch drinking water, her parents can think about the quality of her life rather than worry about her health and safety.

“Next, she needs to go to school,” said her father.



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