How UNICEF's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme succeeds in mitigating public health hazards

UNICEF supported by the governments of the United States and Canada, is working to ensure a safer future for Lebanon’s most vulnerable children.

Simon Balsom
Merhje's four daughters stand in front of their new toilet, a steel structure with a solid door.
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/FouadChoufany
30 August 2019
Abed Al Razak, 8, sitting next to his brother and smiling to the camera.
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/FouadChoufany

Neighbour, Ali Jasem Abdallah, a short walk from Merhje’s home, heads a household of 11. Like his neighbour, when Ali Jasem moved to Marej, his house had no sanitary facilities.

"We built our own," he tells us, "yet with so many of us living this way, the effects were devastating, but given our circumstances, we had no alternative."

"When UNICEF came and told us they'd build a toilet inside and give us a new toilet outside, it changed all our lives."

One of his sons, Abed Al Razak, is a wheelchair user. Still just 8-years-old, Aboodi – as he is affectionately known – is unable to walk. Before receiving his wheelchair, he would crawl outside to access the makeshift latrine his father had built.

"He became unwell and developed persistent infections. We were all regularly unwell, and we knew why – a basic lack of hygiene,", Ali Jasem recalls. "So, when UNICEF came and told us they'd build a toilet inside and give us a new toilet outside, it changed all our lives."

Ali Jasem, himself partially-sighted, also uses the inside toilet – before its provision he always needed one of his children to take him to the lavatory.

His wife reports that everything got a lot easier after UNICEF and World Vision came. “The new toilets are much easier to keep clean with detergent. And now we also have our own water tank – enough to keep our home clean, to drink, and to bathe – our children used to shower once a week, now it’s every two days”.

“We feel able to take better care of Aboodi now. And as he grows he’ll understand the importance the privacy an indoor toilet gives him”, she adds.

Globally, water poverty, poor water quality and lack of sanitation contribute to millions of child deaths from preventable diseases every year.

In Lebanon, UNICEF and World Vision, with the support of the governments of the United States and Canada, are working to ensure a safer future for the country’s most vulnerable children and families.