Sanitation & Hygiene Efforts in Kobe Refugee Camp: Mohammed’s Story

Mohammed is a 50-year-old man living with his family in Kobe refugee camp in the Dolo Ado area of Ethiopia. He arrived at Kobe over a year ago after traveling on foot for two days with his family from Gedweyn, Somalia. In Somalia, Mohammed was a religious elder and worked as a clothing salesman to support his eleven children but was forced to flee the conflict. In Kobe Camp, he was elected by fellow residents as a leader of the Refugee Central Committee, a group set up to coordinate issues affecting camp life.

Mohammed refers to International Medical Corps as “the mother of Kobe Refugee Camp” recalling how International Medical Corps provided much-needed emergency nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services at the height of the hunger crisis in June 2011. “International Medical Corps has done a lot of work in this camp, so much so that we cannot even say what more we want,” says Mohammed.

International Medical Corps immediately deployed an Emergency Response Team in Dolo Ado in June 2011 comprised of experts in nutrition, public health, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to assess and respond to the emerging humanitarian crisis. Since September 2011, we have been implementing an emergency response in Kobe Camp through funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Through this program we provide the target population of 26,033 men, women and children with access to sanitation and hygiene facilities and enable them to protect themselves from WASH-related diseases.

Asked how International Medical Corps helped him and his family, Mohammed says, “As most of the refugees came from the rural parts of Somalia they practiced open defecation and did not use the few available latrines in the camp. Since International Medical Corps built more latrines, International Medical Corps-trained hygiene promoters have come every morning to our homes to teach us how to use the newly constructed latrines hygienically and the importance of practicing safe hygiene and sanitation. From an initial one latrine for ten households, thanks to International Medical Corps, we now share one latrine between four households.”

To ensure that Kobe’s residents have access to sufficient sanitary facilities and the knowledge to practice safe hygiene and sanitation, International Medical Corps constructed sex-segregated latrines with hand washing and bathing facilities; implemented monthly campaigns to address open defecation; established a waste management system; and trained hygiene promoters from the refugee community to educate their peers and distribute basic hygiene materials.

Mohammed’s wife is an International Medical Corps-trained hygiene promoter active in the community. “… wife teaches the community key hygiene and sanitation messages and my children know all of the messages and always remind me to wash my hands after using the toilet,” explains Mohammed.

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