UNRWA HYGIENE CAMPAIGN HELPS KEEP PEOPLE HEALTHY AMID ON-GOING SHELTER LIVING
27 February 2015
A rigorous hygiene campaign is playing a key role preventing any major disease outbreaks in Collective Centres, some eight months since displaced people first sought shelter from the July/August 2014 hostilities.
Almost 10,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) remain living in 14 UNRWA Collective Centres across the Gaza Strip, unable to afford alternative housing amongst critical housing shortages exacerbated by a slow reconstruction pace. Over 100,000 refugee dwellings were damaged or destroyed during the conflict, according to technical assessments undertaken by UNRWA.
Since the ceasefire on 26 August, UNRWA water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) trainers – IDPs employed as part of the UNRWA Job Creation Programme – have worked around the clock to maintain cleanliness standards; working often in challenging and overcrowded living confines.
Eight-person hygiene committees with 50:50 ratios of youth-to-elderly and male-to-female members operate in each UNRWA Collective Centre, carrying out twice-daily cleanliness inspections of family living spaces, monitoring four-times daily cleaning of communal bathroom facilities and running regular hygiene training campaigns focused on best cleaning practices for children and adults.
“With so many people living closely together, we know any small outbreak of disease could reach crisis level quickly,” said Ibrahim Yaqub Alzaaneen, the UNRWA WASH focal point at the Beit Hanoun Preparatory Boys ‘A’ Collective Centre, where 350 IDPs remain living today.
Consistent with all UNRWA Collective Centres, no major health outbreak has occurred at this centre. “We have had some skin disease issues, but these people are always isolated and treated to avoid contamination,” Mr. Alzaaneen said.
The campaign WASH team also performs daily testing of the Centre’s potable water supply and weekly cleaning of all water tanks.
As with each month since the ceasefire, around 1,600 IDPs living in the Agency’s Collective Centres recently participated in one of the 60 UNRWA hygiene campaigns. The WASH trainers also carried out 20 awareness-raising sessions around dental hygiene and personal health promotion targeting 500 IDPs, and 20 recreational and support activities promoting healthy hygiene practices to over 600 children living across its Collective Centres.
“People are facing many challenges living in our Collective Centres for this extended time, but we know WASH work is the most important part of the Centre, said Mohammed Abu Qammer, UNRWA North Area Collective Centre Coordinator. “If we let hygiene standards fall for just one day we could have a big problem.”
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 81 million.
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