Bathroom. Washroom. Restroom. We call it by different names, yet it is one thing; toilet use. Most of us have clean bathrooms in the privacy of our homes, running water, a supply of toilet paper, soap and a towel to dry our hands. We never think of when and where to use the toilet. When we need to relieve ourselves, we go in and get out. This is the routine for most of us.
But for women and girls living in Jiraan camp, a newly formed internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Godobjiran District in Puntland, the story is different. Different for women and girls; different for men and boys. For the women and girls it is not a question of “I want to relive myself” but rather “when and where can I relieve myself.” For the men, they can relieve themselves without embarrassment or feeling like their dignity has been stripped off.
“Here at the IDP we practice open defecation. We can’t go to the toilet anytime. This is an open space and everyone is watching. We either go early in the morning when it is still dark or late at night so as not to feel embarrassed,” states 42-year-old Marwo.
Driven away from her home due to the severe drought, life is very hard for Marwo. A woman, who once boasted of 300 goats and 200 sheep with plenty in her home, now faces scarcity and relies on others for her daily needs.
“Life is hard. I feel like I am a refugee. I do not have anything and I sit here waiting for other people to help me. We are all the same here. We all have nothing,” she sadly remarks.
According to the IDP camp chairman Abdiqanni Jama Abshir, as people practice open defecation, there is also an increase in outbreak of diseases like diarrhoea.
“All the people here practice open defecation and this leads to outbreak of diseases like diarrhoea. The environment does not also smell well,” he says.
Started four months ago, the camp hosts 370 families, with a total population of about 3,800 people. More than a million people have been displaced due to the severe drought and conflict. Additionally, a total of 4.5 million people are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services.
World Vision, in partnership with SHO (Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties), is constructing two latrines in the IDP camp that will see the end of open defecations and promote health and hygiene.
The latrines in the camp are still under construction but Marwo already sees that it will help them immensely.
“This latrine though not finished will help us in a great way. We feel embarrassed going out to relieve ourselves as everyone is watching. But with this toilet, we will have our privacy and the environment will be clean,” she happily declares.
These women will no longer have to think of when and where they can relieve themselves. They will no longer be embarrassed and their dignity will be restored and they will wear it with pride as an ornament as they step out of their makeshift shelters anytime of the day or night to use the toilet.