Water and Sanitation in Melkadida Refugee Camp: Fadumo’s Story

Fadumo is a 30-year-old woman living in Melkadida refugee camp with her husband and two children. Her journey from her home in Somalia was an unforgettable ordeal, traveling first by bus and then six days on foot to arrive at Dolo Ado refugee complex in Ethiopia. She and her husband carried their three children, including a one-year-old child who sadly died a month after arriving at the camp. Fadumo says, “Our journey was so difficult with very little to eat on the way and so frightening because of wild animals like hyenas.”

Fadumo and her family left Somalia to escape a drought that killed many of her family members. Her immediate family also lost their livestock and began to suffer from hunger.

After arriving in Dolo Ado, Fadumo and her family stayed at the transit center for 15 days and received immediate support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) before being transported to Melkadida refugee camp. Upon their arrival in Melkadida, they were given a small tent to live in, monthly food rations (rice, oil and sugar) and a jerry can for water collection.

But Fadumo’s first few months in the camp were difficult. She still had to travel about half a mile to get to a water point and wait 1-2 hours to collect water with a single three liter jerry can, which was not enough to even store water for drinking. Since there were insufficient latrines in her zone, she and her family also had to defecate in an open field.

Melkadida is the second camp to open in the Dolo Ado Corridor and home to 41,394 Somali refugees. It was originally established for a maximum 25,000 people but received over 40,000 additional refugees following the recent humanitarian crisis in Somalia. According to UNHCR, the top three causes of mortality in the camp as of August 2011 were acute malnutrition, lower respiratory tract infections and watery diarrhea—diseases that are linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions.

After ARRA asked International Medical Corps to help expand existing WASH services to accommodate the influx, we began implementing the “Emergency Nutrition and Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Support for Somali Refugees in Ethiopia” program in September 2011. The program aims to ensure that Melkadida’s inhabitants can access adequate sanitary facilities and environmental services, and practice safe hygiene and sanitation. To achieve these aims, International Medical Corps constructed sex-segregated latrines with hand washing facilities, ran awareness-raising campaigns to promote sanitation, established a waste management system, constructed bathing facilities and trained refugee community promoters to carry out hygiene promotion activities and distribute basic hygiene supplies.

As a result, Fadumo says, “Now my family and I are in much better condition than before!” Fadumo and her family were provided with two 20 liter jerry cans for water collection and storage, and now use a family latrine built by International Medical Corps.

“We now use our own latrine, which is safe and private. I know when I should wash my hands and how to handle food and water safely from the education I receive during the weekly home visits by International Medical Corps’ community hygiene promoters,” says Fadumo.

In addition to our programs at Dolo Ado, International Medical Corps is working in drought-affected regions throughout Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as in the Dadaab complex in Kenya, which is the largest refugee settlement in the world. Our relief programs include nutrition, water/sanitation/hygiene, primary health care, gender-based violence and protection, among other services.

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