“We did not know the importance of good hygiene”

People living in camps for the internally displaced face severe health and hygiene problems. With simple hygiene training, Zarifah has now secured her three children against infectious disease.

Zarifah and her husband have been living with their three young children in a camp in Baharak district since they had to flee their home in Badakhshan during fierce fighting in the Warduj district. The family’s income is meagre, and they live from what the husband earns by selling bread outside the camp and by doing daily wage labour whenever possible. Due to the unhygienic conditions in the camp almost every month their children would fall ill suffering from amoebic dysentery and sometimes even blood dysentery.

Dysentery from polluted water and bad hygiene

The closest health centre was several kilometres away from the IDP camp, and Zarifah and her husband could not afford to have the children treated every month. But one day one of the children was suffering severely from blood dysentery, and Zarifah decided to go to the health centre. The doctor there asked her many questions about drinking water sources, and about their use of latrines and checked the child’s nails and hands as well. This made Zarifah more aware of how the use of polluted water and unhygienic practices could cause disease and infection, and she approached Mission East for assistance in learning about better hygiene practices.

Never heard of this before

Zarifah and her husband learnt about the importance of personal, domestic and environmental hygiene, about child healthcare and nutrition, how to make water safe for drinking and the importance of washing hands after defecation and before eating. Zarifah said: “Some of these things I had never heard about before and when I received the training, I tried to understand my current hygiene practices and tried to link them to my children’s diseases.” The training made her change several of her own and her family’s habits.

Boiling water for drinking

She instructed her children not to defecate in the open and to wash their hands properly afterwards, and she started to cut their nails and brush their teeth regularly. Her children are now using the latrine regularly and properly. Zarifah also realized that she herself did not boil the water before drinking and kept the water jar open day and night which was all very harmful for the family. She started to be very careful about always keeping the water jar covered and cleaning the family’s utensils and clothes, and sweeping the floor and compound of the house thoroughly.

No more diseases

The changes made to the family’s hygiene habits have improved the children’s health considerably. ''Now I am looking after my children very well. They do not complain about their dysentery problems anymore and they have good health. We did not know about microbes before, but now we know that they are the main cause of diarrheal diseases and other common diseases such as skin infections. If we do not allow them to enter our bodies, it is very easy to avoid getting diseases from them,” Zarifah said.

Knowledge is shared

The knowledge that Zarifah and her husband received from Mission East is spreading in the community for the benefit of other families living in the camp. “We shared information about the health benefits amongst the community people. Even the Mullah advised us in the mosque to use the improved latrine, wash hands after defecation and before eating and to clean nails, clothes and our homes regularly. The Mullah also gave some examples from the Holy Quran. We are thankful to Mission East for providing this support to me and to the IDP community and in helping us to change some of our bad habits,” Zarifah said.

Zarifah was a beneficiary under the ECHO-funded Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM) project in 2013. Mission East provided 51 temporary household latrines and hygiene kits, organized 25 hygiene sessions and trained 90 members of the IDP community including Zarifah.