Having access to clean, running water and sanitation facilities is a daily struggle for many displaced people. Most often, women and girls are most affected by the lack of basic toilet facilities as their need for privacy and hygiene are greater and their need for a secure toilet space higher.
This used to be the reality in the village of Ceelsha Biyaha in the Gedo region of southern Somalia, until Amino Gab, a 50-year-old mother of nine and head of the household, took it upon herself to advocate for decent toilet facilities in her community.
“Having access to toilet facilities is a very personal issue for me and for every young girl and woman in this village,” she says.
“Women and girls are the ones who are affected the most by the lack of decent toilet facilities since they always have to wait until dark to go out in the open. This practice is very uncomfortable, and it has, to be honest, been very painful at times to see what we as women go through.”
Amino explains that previously, families either used makeshift facilities made from sticks and reeds or defecated in the open due to a lack of resources to build a latrine. There was also a lack of awareness on the health and safety implications of this practice, especially among the most vulnerable groups. Living in a society without decent toilets puts people at risk of disease, pollutes the environment, and discourages girls and young women from attending school.
Therefore, Amino has lobbied tirelessly for the construction of latrines in her village, including to DRC’s teams in Somalia.
Through a consultative process and with support from DANIDA - Denmark’s Development Cooperation – DRC has rehabilitated and constructed latrines and distributed hygiene kits to the benefit of 3,270 persons in need.
Amino expresses gratitude for the support provided in improving the sanitation within the community and most importantly giving them back their dignity.
“For years, women in this town and beyond have been taught one rule of thumb – if you need to defecate or urinate, you have to either go early in the morning when it is still dark or late at night. But this is no longer the case in this village.”
Safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene services are an essential part of preventing and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks - including the current COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most cost-effective strategies for increasing pandemic preparedness, especially in resource-constrained settings, is to invest in public health infrastructure.
Access to clean water and sanitation facilities is imperative to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“These latrines came at the right time. They will greatly enhance our ability to stop the spread of the virus,” Amino Gab says.
“Everyone has something that is important to them, something they value, are passionate about and believe in. I have found a cause in life to fight for and to be honest, this has had a ripple effect not only on the lives of my children but on my community. I have seen the impact of my advocacy.”