ENSURING DIGNITY AND ACCESS TO BASIC NEEDS IS PRESERVED IN INFORMAL TENTED SETTLEMENTS
Remie Hamzo, WASH Field Officer for Action Against Hunger
Action Against Hunger, with the support of UNICEF, is assisting the most vulnerable communities located in several areas of the Bekaa. We support Syrian refugees living in informal tented settlements through the construction of wastewater systems and water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Additionally, we provide water trucking and desludging services among the community, and we organize raising-awareness activities promoting good hygiene practices to prevent the transmission of waterborne diseases.
Suleiman, Syrian Refugee next to his tent in an informal tented settlement located in Bekaa.
Our aim is to guarantee clean water and correct sanitation are available for proper and sustainable living conditions to everyone regardless the age or gender. The assistance delivered proved to have a positive impact on the community, ensuring water access, improving wastewater management, and enhancing good hygiene practices.
One of the activities consists of distributing latrines for people who cannot easily access the sanitation facilities due to their advance age or disabilities. Recently, the field team identified Wazna, an elderly woman from one of the informal settlements in Bekaa that was facing obstacles when using the traditional Arabic-seat latrine. After assessing the situation of her tent, we installed a more suitable Western toilet seat.
“I’m very happy while using the new latrine since I don’t need the help of my family while accessing it,” expressed Wazna after receiving the new facility.
Under the same activity, our team constructed a new latrine directly next to Fatouma’s tent. She is a mother of a little child and the head of her household. They used to go outside their tent to be able to access a latrine shared with their neighbours.
“I didn’t have the ability or the means to construct a private toilet for my family, so we were forced to share one with our neighbours. However, since I received the new latrine, I no longer fear for my children, especially during the night, since there was no lighting or lock in the old latrine that we had to use,” explains Fatouma.
In addition to the construction of sanitation facilities, we provide water trucking and desludging services, essential to any human being, in a sufficient quantity and quality to meet the Sphere and Water Sector standards (35 litres/person/day). We continuously try to ensure the provision of a superior quality service based on the right holders’ needs by working closely with members of the community to report issues and anomalies inside the settlements.
Trad, a Shawish who acts as a settlement supervisor and a decision-maker, reported that “The community is satisfied, since everyone is taking the right quantity of water to address their needs.”
Our team periodically monitor the water quality through bacteriological and physiochemical tests. Water suppliers in charge of distributing the water are exhaustively monitored, from boreholes to trucks by conducting spot checks to make sure the chlorine is properly added and the water is safe for drinking purposes.
Action Against Hunger staff from the WASH team checking the water quality and chlorine level during a water distribution in the ITS.
“My team and I always carry around a pool tester which is considered our main tool for monitoring. We test the chlorine level in trucks during the distribution and in beneficiaries’ water tanks one day after the distribution to make sure that the suppliers are compliant with the standards,” our technical staff explains.
As they work in the frontline on a daily basis, the officers prioritize listening to the community and addressing any need that may arise to protect the rights of everyone, especially those of the most vulnerable.
“We get complaints about waterborne diseases outbreaks and start an investigation to identify the source of contamination to prevent further infections. We take samples from all water sources used in the affected site that are tested either in our internal lab or in an external one. After the identification, our hygiene promotion team intervenes according to each situation.”
PROMOTING SOCIAL COHESION, CREATING A SAFER FUTURE
Other sustainable actions from our project also have a positive impact on the lives of many habitants of the valley, not only on the refugees but also on the Lebanese host community, thus helping alleviate the risk of tensions between the two parties.
As many Syrian refugees, Suleiman came to Lebanon in 2012 with his wife and four children to find safety and asylum. Upon their arrival, the situation was very chaotic, the site in which he settled was severely unequipped, and they did not have the means to improve the situation. Our interventions helped addressing the most urgent needs of the family in the informal tented settlement in which they live.
“The wastewater that used to be discharged above the ground outside our settlement caused a lot of tension between our neighbours and our community since the bad smell was very annoying. This led the landlord to give us an eviction notice. However, when the greywater systems were installed by the organisation, the discharge of wastewater into the soil was heavily reduced and the bad smell was eliminated. So, today, we don’t have tensions with the neighbours, and we are no longer afraid of eviction”, he explains.
Suleiman in front of his tent in the informal tented settlement where he lives with his wife and children in Bekaa.
“I thank Action Against Hunger and UNICEF for improving the living situation of my community, especially for women and children,” says Suleiman.
The installation of wastewater treatment plants is reducing the risk of infectious and waterborne diseases outbreaks by providing safe sanitation and reducing the tensions with Lebanese communities living nearby.
“Before your support, we had to use collection-pits for grey water disposal. The women and the young girls were in charge to empty the pits. To remove this dirty water, we were forced to carry it for long distances, and this caused us a lot of health problems. These collection pits, which are open, are located closely to the tent. I used to fear for my children as they might fall into these pits, but since the systems were installed, I feel that my dignity is preserved, and I no longer need to worry about my children.” Batoul, who recently benefitted from the greywater system installation, reported.
Action Against Hunger staff supervising the installation of grey water systems in Beeka.
Accessing safe water and sanitation is an essential right for all, especially for children. Unsafe water quality can cause detrimental effects on their nutrition and health, aspects that are crucial for their development. The reviews of many right holders proved the importance of investing in this kind of initiatives to improve their daily life and protect their health while enhancing their relationship with the host communities.
Our teams will continue working hard to ensure that all voices are heard, all needs are met and the rights and dignity of everybody are preserved and protected.
Pictures: Maria Klenner for Action Against Hunger, Lebanon.
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