In the dusty, crowded camps for people displaced in Galkacyo, in Gal-mudug state in Central Somalia, the living situation for the 10,000 new residents is almost unbearable.
By Nasreldin Hamid Abdalla (Hydrogeophysicist – GSA)
Children sit on the dirt ground covered with flies. They have long ago given up exerting the energy to swat them away. When the sun sets and the heat finally subside, the mosquitoes come in swarms, carrying the deadly malaria virus.
In a rapid assessment of the camps in Galkacyo conducted in May of this year by GSA, 80 percent of the camp residents surveyed reported cases of malaria, while 82 percent reported cases of diarrhea. UNICEF recently reported that there has been a dramatic increase in Hepatitis E in Galkacyo.
“There is a dire need for more hygiene materials such as soap, as well as washing facilities, latrines, proper waste disposal and general community training on hygiene issues,” says Abdi Mohamud, Mercy Corps’ Hygiene Promoter working in Darfur.
“Many of the health problems residents have in the camps are avoidable with proper hygiene and sanitation and access to adequate clean drinking water.”
55 percent of the population are in need of clean drinking water
Yme/GSA/NorSom is actively working in Gal-mudug state, to combat the outbreak of deadly water- related diseases by constructing latrines, digging shallow wells or boreholes to complement existing emergency water interventions and carrying out an educational campaign to ensure camp residents understand the importance of good hygiene. “Previously the people in the camps lived in open, rural areas where the population density was much lower and sanitation and hygiene was not a major issue,” says Awali Hassan. “Now thousands of people are living side-by-side in makeshift tents and inadequate waste disposal and hygiene are life-threatening issues.”
The water and environmental sanitation sector is greatly underserved in Galkacyo. According to GSA’ rapid assessment over 55 percent of the population are in need of clean drinking water, while 58 percent of the population are in need of sanitation facilities.
Mahmoud Abdi is a resident of IDP Camp in Galkacyo. All of his nine children have experienced severe cases of diarrhea and other illnesses as a result of improper sanitation facilities. “For the past three months we have lived here, we used the stream behind our tent for a toilet,” says Mr. Abdi. “Now that Yme/GSA has provided us materials and training, we are building a toilet. I hope that it will help decrease the amount of flies and make my family healthier.”
Training hygiene promoters
In addition to assisting with the building of thousands of latrines, Yme/GSA is carrying out a hygiene education campaign. To date, fifty people have been selected for hygiene promotion training, and are being trained in the appropriate use and maintenance of sanitation facilities; the safe disposal of human waste; the importance of hand-washing; clean water use and storage; and the control of flies and other insects. After this program is completed, these newly trained hygiene promoters will work in their community to train the other residents.
Despite the tremendous strides being made by GSA and other aid organizations in Gal-Mudug, the need for life-saving assistance to the displaced people is only growing.