Clean hands, latrines, and safe water for displaced communities in El Fasher
“I learnt how to wash my hands with water and soap."
The ongoing conflict in Sudan has pushed millions of people out of their homes. Over 5 million people – of which over 2.5 are children - are currently displaced inside and outside the country since mid-April.
Several are arriving in El Fasher town in North Darfur and seeking refuge in public institutions, such as schools. Al Wahad school is a good example. Here, two sisters, Waid and Omnya Yasin (eleven- and twelve-years old children) have taken shelter with their families, having arrived from the Eastern part of El Fasher (Hay El Geil). The school used to host more than 500 students daily, but now it shelters 128 households, with over 760 people calling it their home after escaping conflict.
As more and more people arrive at the schools, the strain on already limited-services like access to basic drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities is overwhelming, significantly increasing the safety and health risks of these internally displaced persons (IDPs).
For instance, existing latrines can hardly accommodate the increasing number of people, impacting women and girls significantly more. As latrines have quickly filled up, and with no desludging service in place, these spaces have become unhygienic. Women and girls no longer feel comfortable or dignified using these latrines, driving them to seek alternatives which not only expose them to danger (either by travelling further afar or using them only at night) but also put additional pressure on the household (as they seek to be accompanied by other relatives). On top of that, without handwashing facilities, water, and soap, it is very difficult for users in general to ensure basic hygiene practices, such as simple handwashing after using the latrines – a key preventive measure that could prevent acute watery diarrhea.
It is not just lack of space or strained latrine services that pose threats to people seeking shelter here. It is now the peak of the hot season, and the displaced communities’ water needs are higher, leaving them in dire need of clean and safe drinking water. On top of that, the frequent electricity outages and limited fuel supplies in the town are unable to support alternative water sources like pumping of clean and safe water from a neighbouring source.
This situation, makes it additionally harder for people to keep their surrounding environment clean, putting these communities, especially their children, at further risk of waterborne diseases.
For adolescent girls like Waid and Omnya, lack of sanitation facilities and clean water, also curtails the ability to manage their monthly periods.
With financial assistance from German Cooperation / KfW, UNICEF through its partner Tabasheer Organization have stepped up and are providing a continued supply of clean and safe water through water trucking for the first three months.
Through this support, 35 health and nutrition centres, as well as 34 IDP gathering sites are connected to clean water.
Waid and Omnya can now access clean drinking water through the daily trips made by the trucks.
Tabasheer has also constructed 370 emergency latrines in El Fasher rural area, with simple hand washing facilities made using locally available bamboo sticks and empty water bottles (also known as tippy-taps), to support handwashing with water and soap. This simple but valuable practice will help curb hygiene-related illnesses, such as diarrhea.
In other locations currently hosting IDPs, construction of emergency latrines is underway, reducing pressure on the few latrines available and improving on waste management.
Delivery of hygiene promotion sessions and distribution of soap is also being prioritized. Through these sessions, hygiene promoters are emphasizing the importance of handwashing with clean water and soap at critical points.
“I learnt how to wash my hands with water and soap using the Tippy -Tap: before and after eating food, after using the latrine. I want the fighting to stop, I want to play,”
Clean water and good hygiene and sanitation go hand in hand.
Sustainable water solutions
To supplement the water supply by the trucks, as well as provide long-term solutions that will address the urgent water needs of the displaced populations, UNICEF is also providing subsidies to cover the cost of fuel and essential spare parts for the operation and maintenance of 85 motorized water sources in El Fasher and Tawilla localities. To ensure daily operation, UNICEF also supported the provision of training to 30 (10 men and 20 women) community-based operators to run the water schemes.
“It was very difficult to satisfy the increasing demand for water from the new displacements following the fuel shortages and increased prices. Thanks to UNICEF’s support, it will be possible to ensure IDPs have access to free clean water” Adel Yousif Yaqoub from the– State Water Corporation Water Yard Operator, asserted.
Since the onset of the conflict, in North Darfur, 356,000 people have gained access to safe water for drinking and domestic needs and over 18,000 gained access to appropriate sanitation services. These achievements were only made possible due to the generous contribution from the German cooperation/ KFW, Government of the United States (PBRM & BHA), UN CERF and reflect direct results of UNICEF’s partners such as National Planning Organisation, SAHARI, ALJEZUR, ALNAHDA and AUTTASH; whilst working in coordination and collaboration with key WASH stakeholders (WES and SMOH).