Encouraging Hygiene for Refugees

December 27, 2013 • Uganda
New Latrines Encourage Hygiene for Refugees
Paluku, Kivira, and their three children now have access to better hygiene in the camp where they are living.
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Refugees fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive in Uganda with nothing other than what they can carry. Samaritan’s Purse is meeting the basic needs of these people, including helping them with hygiene.

It takes a desperate situation to force a family to start their life afresh with nothing other than what they can carry. That is what Paluku Mwendapole and Kavira Jorime Katusele faced in the Democratic Republic of Congo when they fled as refugees.

“When we heard the bullets and people being slaughtered like goats, we had to run away,” Paluku said, mimicking a knife running across his throat as he spoke.

As rebels descended on their village, Paluku and Kavira gathered their three youngest children. With no time to plan an escape route that wouldn’t jeopardize the safety of the entire family, they were forced to leave their oldest children at the local school.

The family walked for two days until they reached Uganda. They eventually arrived at Kyangwali refugee settlement, where they received a small plot of land upon which to live and farm for their food. Paluku and Kavira still do not know where their three oldest children are but pray fervently for a reunion and for their family to be made whole.

Unfortunately, Paluku and Kavira are not alone. They are two of approximately 20,000 newly arrived refugees in Kyangwali as a result of intensified fighting in the DRC.

When hundreds of people are gathered in a relatively small space such as a refugee settlement, the need for sanitation becomes dangerously clear. The same fields that become toilets also act as farmland and children’s play areas. Without proper sanitation facilities, there is danger of disease outbreak and illness. Globally, UNICEF estimates that 2.2 million people die each year from diarrhea, often the result of poor sanitation and hygiene.

The land in Kyangwali is fertile, but it is bare. There are no toilets or latrines, no housing, and only a few stalks of corn growing here and there. While there is much potential for refugees to have a safe, healthy life, assistance is needed.

Samaritan’s Purse is working in one village within Kyangwali to help Paluku and Kavira and 149 other refugee families build latrines to ensure they can live hygienically and prevent disease. The latrines are 10 feet deep holes covered by plastic covers that provide a stable surface to stand upon that is also easy to clean.

Samaritan’s Purse is providing newly arriving refugees with tools that allow them to dig latrine holes and make durable latrine covers. With this simple intervention, families are one step closer to rebuilding healthy lives.

“The latrine helps us much to keep the proper hygiene of the home and keep the environment clean,” Paluku said.

While delivering tools and providing technical assistance, Samaritan’s Purse staff members are able to pray with the refugees and encourage them with the truth of the Gospel.

These latrines were made possible by generous donations from the Samaritan’s Purse family. Paluku and Kavira and their neighbors sent their deep appreciation and thanks to God for their unknown brothers and sisters who donated so they could start their lives again away from the threat of war, and be protected from disease.

Please continue to pray for Paluku, Kavira, their children, and the thousands of other Congolese refugees who share similar stories.