Women are using latrines with no fear and shame in their communities
Reaching vulnerable populations with WASH interventions has a significant impact on their mental, physical, and spiritual health
Zebura and her family were living in East Wollega zone, Bubu Seyo Woreda (district) of Oromia region. They cultivated crops on their farm and had a clothing business in the village. They had access to safe water and had a household latrine that they used. Generally, the family had a stable livelihood, and their children were healthy. Zebura Adane, her 65-year-old mother, and their 3 children, however, had to flee their village which is 266 km from Debre Berhan, and were settled in the China IDP camp.
Zebura stated that she and her household faced severe difficulties immediately after they reached China camp. There were only two pits of latrines to be used by both males and females and one tap for water collection. Due to this, they had to wait for 1 to 2 hours to get access to the latrine services, and they were worried about water shortage.
”Whenever I wanted to use the latrine, I would always worry about the queue of people ahead of me and the crowd of men and women around the latrine waiting for the service outside. As women, we need privacy but what we passed through was unacceptable as we were obliged to use the latrine while a large crowd of people were waiting outside,” said Zebura. She has also been worried about the lack of a private space to change sanitary pads. On top of that, there were no solid and liquid waste disposal facilities, consequently, they were disposing wastes here and there within and outside of the IDP compound.
Since there was indiscriminate disposal of solid and liquid wastes within and outside of the compound, the area was smelly and dirty.
“Whenever I smell bad odors, I usually become sick, and I was always worried about becoming severely sick and helpless to my children, says Zabura
Women have been facing serious problems due to water to take shower, unlike men who might go to rivers whenever they wanted. Zebura is a Muslim woman who should wash her body every day before saying her prayers. However, due to the shortage of water and unavailability of shower facilities, she and her family were facing challenges to practice the prayer. According to Zebura, though community volunteers and health workers were teaching them to keep their personal and environmental cleanliness, they were not able to do due to a lack of WASH facilities.
Zebura has witnessed improvements in the conditions since their arrival in the China camp IDP site thanks to the support of UNICEF and partners. Now, they have enough water sources, and every household in the China camp IDP site gets safe water without interruption. Separate trench latrines and bathing shelters have been constructed for both females and males. Also, solid and liquid waste disposal facilities have been constructed within the IDP site and are being used.
“Thanks to Almighty God, now things are better,” said Zebura. ‘We (women) are using our latrine with no fear and shame. We can take shower and pray whenever we want and waste baskets are available we can dispose of waste there, by using megaphones and interacting with us personally, community volunteers are teaching us appropriate hand washing, food and water hygiene practices, and how to use latrines regularly. Latrines are being cleaned and dislodged regularly.”
When asked what other WASH-related services they are getting, Zebura mentioned that they are provided with soaps, sanitary pads, water Jerrycans, and washing basins.
Aselef Eshetu is an IDP community member who is working as a community volunteer at China camp IDP site. She agreed with what Zebura said about the challenges and difficulties they faced related to WASH and the improvements made since then. According to Aselef, when they reached in China camp IDP site, there was only one tap for water collection and two latrines’ stances. Due to this, there were severe shortages of water and a large crowd of people waiting to use the latrines. Open defecation was prevalent everywhere just outside the IDP camp. She also mentioned that they were obliged to use river water for drinking and due to this, there were incidences where many children fell sick with diarrheal diseases.
While witnessing the improvements they are experiencing now, Aselef concurred with the significant and visible improvements in place.
“There are relatively many latrines, and they are regularly being cleaned and dislodged). There is no child who is sick of vomiting and diarrhea. Community volunteers and hygiene and sanitation officers are teaching the IDP community regularly about hygiene and sanitation by going house to house/tent to tent and with regular campaigns. Solid and liquid waste disposal sites are identified and separated,” said Aselef.
Recognizing the burden of water, hygiene, and sanitation problems and their impact on IDPs and the host community, UNICEF supported the Amhara Regional Health Bureau, water bureau, Debre Berhan town health department, and Debre Berhan town water department with coordination, technical support and with WASH supplies. UNICEF also provided financial support to Plan International Ethiopia. The funding is mainly utilized for water pipeline laying and maintenance, water trucking, latrine and washing facility construction, hygiene and sanitation promotion, monitoring and evaluation, and capacity building at Regional, Zonal, Woreda, and Kebele (sub-district) levels. In addition, UNICEF deployed WASH technical assistance to support WASH and related activities in IDPs and host communities in Debre Berhan area.