The Benefits of WASH Services for Refugees


SEATTLE — According to an estimate by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are more than 65.3 million refugees who have fled from the combined effects of trafficking, slavery, violence and other human rights violations. Among the many assistance programs helping these populations is the provision of water, sanitation,and hygiene (WASH). WASH services for refugees are becoming a primary focus for governments, international organizations and coalitions and nonprofits.

Weaknesses in the WASH sector is one of the primary causes of the spread of waterborne diseases and malnutrition among refugees. Despite having good knowledge about sanitation issues, many refugees often find it difficult to implement good sahabits due to their circumstances. They are often forced to live in shanties, refugee camps and other forms of informal housing in other countries, where there are inadequate WASH services for refugees.

According to UNHCR, ameliorating the state of WASH services for refugees will have essential benefits in addressing protection, nutrition, education, food security, livelihoods and associated environmental considerations. UNHCR is one of the leading providers of WASH services to millions of refugees around the world.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reached more than 1.3 million people with WASH services in 2015. With a stronghold in nearly 16 countries across the world, NRC WASH projects involve software activities and the implementation of advanced water supply and sanitation technologies. Similarly, Relief International assists capacity-building among refugee camps in Iraq, South Sudan, Jordan, Sudan and Lebanon. Inhabitants of camps like Azraq, Zaatari and Darashkran often receive training and education in hygiene awareness.

As most nonprofit organizations and aid agencies are often under insurmountable pressure, it becomes easier when local charities and refugee-led committees receive ample amounts of training to help individuals. In this way, a larger number of beneficiaries can be easily reached. Relief International follows similar practices in its work at various refugee camps.

In a recent move, despite the rather tough stance of Calais authorities and his own government towards the influx of refugees, French president Emmanuel Macron decided to increase development aid to the Calais camps. France will be involved in the provision of water, showers and toilets for refugees living near Calais.

Recently, it was reported that trench foot, an endemic medical condition that can be traced back to the World War I era, is in fact linked with having constant exposure to unsanitary, wet or damp ground. Young women and children haveĀ developed the illness as conditions at refugee camps are abysmal. Aggravated forms of the condition can persist for several months and may even result in gangrene or in worst cases, amputation.

In addition to this, refugees are also developing skin conditions from the poor hygiene situation. They often have to bathe with polluted water from the canals and nearby water bodies. Fortunately, organizations like Help Refugees and Medecins du Monde are addressing such problems and health issues in Calais.

Additionally, the Kiva fund, a micro-lending platform, is earmarking more than $9 million for refugees and host countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. This will help improve the quality of WASH services for refugees. The Kiva World Refugee Fund will crowdsource investments from other key stakeholders.

Providing WASH services for refugees will help them become more economically and socially empowered and also boost self-sufficiency and independence. It is not just vital for WASH interventions to reach refugee camps; but it is also equally important to monitor, assess, and regulate the provision of these essential services.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr


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