Keeping Her Children Healthy: Halimo’s Story

Halimo cares for her four young children alone, since her husband died in the brutal conflict that still rages in her native Somalia. In 2011 she fled drought and violence, making the 8 day journey by truck to Boqolmayo refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Once at the camp, Halimo was deeply concerned that she needed to repeatedly take her children to the medical clinic for treatment, as they were constantly falling ill and suffering from malnutrition.

Boqolmayo camp was built to accommodate 20,000 refugees, yet today nearly 40,000 people live there, placing a massive strain on the water supply and sanitation services in the camp. Diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices such as skin diseases, eye infections, diarrhea and intestinal worms were a frequent feature of life in the camp.

But in March 2012, International Medical Corps, with generous support from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, began a series of activities in Boqolmayo camp to improve the hygiene and sanitation infrastructure and promote behavioral change among refugees.

Prior to a home visit by International Medical Corps-trained Community Hygiene Promoters (CHP), Halimo had been fetching water using an old and dirty jerry can. She had no idea that this could be linked to the recurring bouts of diarrhea that her children had been suffering.

The CHPs advised Halimo on proper hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing at critical times, proper utilization of latrines, safe solid and liquid waste disposal, and proper storage and handling of water. Following this visit, Halimo began to attend International Medical Corps’ awareness-raising tea talks. For the last three months, she has been cleaning her compound, washing her and her children’s hands using soap and cleaning her jerry cans every other day.

“My children are healthy and growing well, and my first child is now in school!!!” says Halimo.

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