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Emergency sanitation in refugee camps

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conference contribution
posted on 12.02.2018 by Sohrab Baghri, Bob Reed
When refugees flee their homes due to civil strife or natural disasters, they face an uncertain future in refugee camps. Their condition on arrival can vary dramatically, depending on their state before they left home and the distance travelled. Their initial experiences of the camp’s life are confusing and bewildering. At the same time they are exposed to lots of problems such as malnutrition, illness, inadequate shelters, poor water supply, health care and frequently, non existent sanitation facilities. The problem of poor sanitation in refugee camps starts at the beginning. This is mainly due to the fact that it is not given as high a priority as other emergency interventions such as health care, food and water supply. This is despite the fact that many of the diseases common amongst refugees are caused by inadequate sanitary facilities such as excrete disposal, solid waste management, domestic wastewater management, vectors and pest control and a poor understanding of hygiene practices. However, there are other causes of poor sanitation, lack of expertise and trained people, lack of time, and a low level of interest in the subject by camp managers and refugees. The result is that a proper sanitation assessment does not take place leading to poor choice of technology. Furthermore, poor communication between agencies and the affected population, fails to establish a strategy that will encourage the community to participate in environmental sanitation activities. Providing sanitation facilities alone does not, in itself, guarantee health improvements, they must also be used effectively. This paper will discusses these problems, their causes, and work being done to improve provision of facilities in future camps.
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  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

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  • Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)

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WEDC Conference


BAGHRI, S. and REED, B., 1998. Emergency sanitation in refugee camps. IN: Pickford, J. (ed). Sanitation and water for all: Proceedings of the 24th WEDC International Conference, Islamabad, Pakistan, 31 August-4 September 1998, pp.23-26.


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