Rebuilding hygiene and sanitation facilities for newly arrived refugees
UNICEF’s story of providing Afghan refugee children with quality hygiene and sanitation facilities in a settlement where new families and children are arriving.
Clad in a vibrant UNICEF blue windbreaker jacket, a WASH team member accompanied by national partners strolls through the refugee settlement. He carefully observes the ongoing reconstruction of the sanitary facilities and engages in discussions about the upcoming essential improvements. Known as Torbat-e Jam Refugee Settlement, this community is situated in Khorasan Razavi province in the northeastern region of Iran.
Currently, it provides shelter for an estimated 3,358 refugees in 775 households. This settlement came into existence in the early 1990s, a response to a large influx of refugees to Iran during a period of sociopolitical turmoil in Afghanistan. Over the years, it has served as a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Recently, following the new wave of arrivals of Afghan refugees and migrants into Iran, the settlement once again opened its doors to welcome newly arrived families and children.
According to Ali Emami Langeroudi, the UNICEF Iran WASH team member and responsible for construction programmes, Torbat-e Jam Settlement has been sheltering Afghan refugees for over three decades. “However, in the past year alone, the settlement has witnessed an influx of an estimated 1,112 refugees due to the unfolding political events in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that “this sudden 30 per cent increase in the population calls for urgent attention to improve shelter, hygiene and sanitation facilities. Specifically, there is a pressing need for the construction of additional shower rooms and toilets to accommodate the needs of the growing number of residents.”
As Ali and the UNICEF team continue their observations, they encounter two Afghan student girls near one of the construction sites, 10-year-old Zahra and her friend Nazanin. The young girls share their struggles of walking long distances to access sanitation facilities. “We would like to have access to the new toilets instead of going to more distant places. Now, it takes us half to one an hour to use the facilities, and then during nighttime visits, the grown-ups have to accompany us,” says Zahra.
In order to meet these needs, “UNICEF supported the rebuilding of 146 public toilets,” says Ali. “Also 40 new shower facilities are being built”, he added. At the end of July 2023, all the new facilities were completed and ready for use.
Similar endeavours have been supported by UNICEF in Iran in recent months, including the construction of a new water distribution network in Khorasan Jonuobi, new water supply network construction in Sistan and Baluchestan province, execution of the main water feeder line in Niatak refugee settlement, and the construction of water distribution networks in Golestan province.
Through these infrastructure improvements, UNICEF ensures that children and their families have reliable access to clean water, a fundamental right for every child. Access to safe water, along with basic sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices, contributes to children’s well-being and provides them with a healthier start in life.