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Combatting risk of disease in Domiz refugee camp as summer approaches

Syrian Refugees - Iraq
© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Bruere
(1) Taha talks to children who are designing posters with messages on waste management in the camp.

By Wendy Bruere

DOMIZ, IRAQ, 10 June 2013 – When Domiz resident Taha heard volunteers were needed to help improve health and hygiene education at the camp, he signed up immediately.

“I could see the camp needed cleaning, and people were not always managing waste properly,” said Taha, who fled to Iraq from Syria 10 months ago. “This camp is our city and our home now, so it is our duty to look after it.”

Taha is now one of a team of 60 hygiene promoters who began work on 26 May, going tent to tent to speak with people about good hygiene practices.

“People are happy to have us come to their tents,” he said. “But we can see that garbage collection and sewage systems are not always working properly.”

The hygiene promotion campaign is run by UNICEF and partner organization Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), with training provided by the Department of Health.

The initial focus of the campaign is on preventing diseases such as diarrhea, which are likely to increase during the hot summer season where temperatures will rise to up to the mid-40s degrees Celsius.

“There is an increased risk of disease in the camp where there is a high density of tents, insufficient water supply, lack of toilets, poor waste collection, overflow of septic tanks and poor hygiene practices,” said UNICEF Regional Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, Pierre Fourcassie, who came from Amman to Domiz in early June to help scale up UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programmes to Syrian refugees in Iraq for the summer.

“Additionally, the grey water on some of the camp's roads can mix with the overflow effluent from septic tanks which puts children, who frequently play with and in the water, at risk.”

The hygiene promoters work in close collaboration with other hygiene promoters managed by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and will receive ongoing training at the camp so they can continue to deliver targeted messages to all 40,000 camp residents over the coming months.

Managing risk
To compliment this hygiene promotion in minimizing the risk of disease over the summer, UNICEF, with support from the government, is also working on a camp-wide underground drainage system. The planned system will largely eliminate the grey water around the camp.

UNICEF, with the Norwegian Refugee Council, also recently constructed emergency latrines, bathing facilities and water points in the camp’s congested transit areas and irregular settlements, improving water and sanitation for over 11,200 refugees.

“If you have a combined intervention with increased latrines and chlorinated water points, better drainage, action-oriented hygiene promotion with access to soap and community awareness and mobilization, you can decrease the risk of outbreaks of diseases like diarrhea and cholera,” Fourcassie said.

Other key water, sanitation and hygiene work in Domiz camp completed by UNICEF, alongside government and partners, includes installing water networks in three of the seven phases of the camp as well as improved access to safe water for more than 20,000 refugees via the construction of a 2,000 metre pipeline from the town water supply system to the camp.




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