Responding to an outbreak of diarrhoea, the UN refugee agency has deployed mobile teams, funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), to fix water and sanitation-related problems in relief camps in the South Asia earthquake zone.
GHAZI KOT CAMP, Pakistan. Responding to an outbreak of diarrhoea in Pakistan’s earthquake-hit north, the UN refugee agency has deployed mobile teams to fix water and sanitation-related problems in relief camps that have sprung up across the earthquake affected area.
Camps and makeshift shelters take people out of their natural living environment and can be very stressful,” said UNHCR’s Michael Zwack, who heads the UN’s camp management cluster. “In crowded conditions and with few basic services, health problems can easily arise. We are trying to reach as many camps as possible to prevent disease outbreaks.”
In organized camps in Balakot and Batagram, partners such as Oxfam, UNICEF and the Taraque Foundation have already set up water points, latrines and bathrooms. But hygiene standards are harder to ensure in the hundreds of makeshift camps that are scattered across the affected area.
Efforts are ongoing to map these spontaneous camps and identify their immediate needs, be it for clean drinking water, latrines or decongestion.
UNHCR and UNICEF are sending staff to show the Pakistan army, non-governmental organisations and able-bodied residents in camps how to decongest and clean up. “It’s a simple, direct approach,” said site planner Melesse Tegegne. “We cover site planning and camp management – to ensure there’s enough space between tents, and that latrines are not too close to the tents or water points, to avoid contamination.”
Major Ashad Ali of the Pakistan army, who is overseeing the new Ghazi Kot camp near Mansehra, said, “We’ve requested UNHCR to advise us on the technical aspects of camp management and on operational issues like services. We’re not moving people in until all the services are functioning, at least on a minimum basis.”
Responding to the request, a UNHCR mobile team went shopping for wooden panels and other materials to set up latrines at Ghazi Kot. By the end of the day, eight emergency latrines were ready. Swiss NGO, Terres des Hommes, has taken on the task of constructing sturdier, longer term facilities while UNICEF will provide drinking water. Another 100 UNHCR tents are on their way to supplement the 98 tents already pitched.
The twelve-member UNHCR team, which consists of plumbers, carpenters, masons and electricians, is one of 20 quick impact teams being established in the Mansehra, Muzaffarabad and Bagh areas. They will be supported by 12 camp management teams to sensitise people on hygiene and protection issues. The teams are funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Babar Baloch (camp de Ghazi Kot) and Vivian Tan (Islamabad), UNHCR