13 March 2014

Uganda: Battling to Keep Disease Out of Uganda's Refugee Camps

press release

When violence broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, tens of thousands of people fled into neighbouring Uganda for safety. They are now housed in various settlements around Adjumani, approximately 440 kilometres north of Kampala, near the border with South Sudan.

Sanitation facilities at the Nyumanzi transit camp cannot meet the demand. With water shortages and poor sanitation, refugee families are at higher risk of disease and epidemic outbreaks.

"Sanitation conditions at the Nyumanzi transit camp are stretched. There are not enough pit latrines to serve the number of refugees in the camp," said Emmanuael Khamis Napoleon, a hygiene promotion and community service Red Cross volunteer. "In addition, we lack sufficient gloves and gumboots to keep the facilities clean."

Existing bathroom facilities do not offer sufficient privacy, forcing refugees to use them in the night. Others also have to wait for the cover of darkness to take their baths in the open. Without proper facilities in place, refugees wash their clothes on the open ground, sometimes close to water points or next to their shelters. This is the situation in all the settlement camps around Adjumani.

"There are not enough bathrooms and toilets for all of us," said Akon Woi, a South Sudanese refugee. "We are forced to use communal facilities that are often not clean. Someone has to volunteer to clean them."

Water is delivered to the camps in trucks and poured into tanks positioned in strategic positions. But there are only a limited number of tanks available, which means the trucks are making several trips to the River Nile and boreholes close by to collect water.

To improve water and sanitation conditions in the refugee camps, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has installed a water and sanitation disaster response kit in Adjumani district. It is designed to treat and distribute water to meet the needs of up to 5,000 people. It can treat up to 75,000 litres of water, some of which can then be transported to distribution points which are closer to the refugees themselves. The Uganda Red Cross Society is operating the water and sanitation disaster response kit, as well as carrying out hygiene promotion to prevent the outbreak of disease which is often a threat during emergency situations.

IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 1,722,559 Swiss francs to enable the Uganda Red Cross to provide much needed assistance to these refugees. This appeal will improve the living conditions of 25,000 South Sudanese refugees by providing safe water, shelter, and improved access to health services.

Next week on www.ifrc.org/africa, read how the Uganda Red Cross Society is working against all odds to ensure child refugees from South Sudan, who have made the treacherous journey to Uganda alone, are reunited with their families.

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