Maintaining proper hygiene practices even when displaced

displaced children in Ituri

Proper hand washing demonstration (Photo: UNICEF DRC Ramazani)

The large number of displaced people caused by the violence which disrupted the peace in the Province of Ituri is leading to a serious hygiene problem. Children and women are living in precarious conditions that make it difficult to practice good hygiene.

Thousands are displaced because of the violence

Since February 2018, the civilian population in the Djugu territory has been experiencing massacres, lootings, and the burning and destruction of villages, causing a massive displacement. Spontaneous displacement sites have been set up around the Bunia General Hospital where more than 25.000 displaced persons are now living.

The spontaneous sites are overcrowded with men, the elderly, and women and children who fled their villages for fear of the violence. Young children cry and the older ones are overwhelmed with sadness. Many of the displaced people have no shelter as their tents are still being built. Children are sleeping under the stars, have very little to eat and have no way of washing.

Preventing the spread of disease in the camps from dirty hands

Out of concern about this situation, we, the Enfants Reporters and members of the Club d’écoute pour enfants, decided to help with the few resources we were able to obtain from people willing to help. We bought several hand-washing bottles and soap with which displaced children can wash their hands properly. We are afraid that these children will soon become ill because of dirty hands.

displaced children in Ituri

Proper hand washing demonstration (Photo: UNICEF DRC Ramazani)

We created a team of 4 Young Reporters and 4 members of the Club d’écoute and went to the General Hospital site where many displaced people are staying. For more than three hours, we showed almost 350 displaced children how to wash their hands correctly after certain activities (particularly after using the toilet, before putting their hands near their mouth).

“I really did not know how to hand-wash. Having you here as children encouraged us”, confided the soft voice of Bienfait, a young person displaced by the violence.

Some moms approached us to ask if we would spread their message. They are worried about their children’s future. “How can we raise children in this situation? Our children have been wearing the same thing for almost a month!” exclaimed one of them.

Everyone must act!

We, the Young Reporters, ask that the government take concrete action to improve  sanitation in the camps for displaced persons. Greater investment must be made to save lives that are at risk.

In spite of aide from humanitarian organisations, religious groups and people of good will, there is much left to be done, as the needs are enormous.

We can all help, in our own way. Everyone, according to their means, can do something to help save lives!

Written by Seth, Joyce, Jacob and Gislain, Young Reporters of Ituri and translated from French by Marguerite McMillan

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