The adage goes that cleanliness is next to godliness. It may seem like an exaggeration of sorts, but when we see the statistics concerning the enormous negative impact of unhygienic conditions on a community, it becomes clearer why it is so important to maintain a clean environment.

UNICEF reports that in areas of conflict, children are nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal disease than from the conflict itself (source link). Improper disposal of rubbish and living close to refuse, open defecation and poor handwashing habits all have an impact on the health of those in a community, with children especially suffering dearly from the consequences.

World Water Day this year on 22nd March presented a very important opportunity to reflect on not just the value of water in promoting improved sanitation and hygiene, but also all other related areas of cleanliness.

In Uganda, the AIRD team used the days in the run up to World Water Day 2021 to tackle issues around sanitation and hygiene in Kyaka II refugee camp (settlement) in western Uganda- one of the largest refugee settlements in the country. Residents of this community are predominantly Congolese refugees who have been allocated land in this area. The team realised that, as important as it is to raise awareness and educate the communities on the issues surrounding hygiene and cleanliness, working with the residents to show how to do things practically is where lasting lessons lie.

Primary Six (6) Pupils of Byabakora Primary School Kyaka-II Refugee Settlement sweep a classroom before morning lessons start

In refugee camps and settlements such as Kyaka II, there are many dynamics affecting the levels of sanitation and hygiene. Large numbers of people in close proximity, gaps in adequate water supply to meet the (humanitarian standard of SPHERE) minimum 15 litres of water per person per day (l/p/d), a population whose numbers can fluctuate greatly from one day to the next, amongst other factors. Given the devastating impact unsanitary conditions can have on such communities, it is critical to implement the right interventions as often as possible to encourage the highest levels of hygiene and cleanliness possible.

Over a two-day period, and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, AIRD Staff alongside zonal tank/water stand attendants and surrounding communities joined efforts to carry out water source & home stead clean-up and mass waste removal using locally available household tools like brooms and equipment provided for by UNHCR/AIRD. Before commencement of the activities, the community was sensitized on the need for proper hygiene and sanitation as this will prevent infection from diseases related to poor sanitation. AIRD continued to truck water to designated zones and intuitions over the two days’ activity. Adults and children alike were involved, which is key for ensuring that different generations understand and inculcate a habit of cleanliness for a long time to come.

From left to Right: Community members and AIRD Staff clean water sources in Mukondo A and Bukere Zones respectively.

WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is an important part of AIRD’s goals. It fits in with our overall strategy over the next five years to do more for the overall improvement in the wellbeing for people of concern through the implementation of sustainable interventions. We will continue to search for avenues through which to accomplish these goals for the benefit of the people we serve in our different areas of operation, and to do our part for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6- Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

AIRD Water Trucking staff deliver water to one of the designated points in Bwiriza Zone Kyaka-II Refugee Settlement.