Water, sanitation, and hygiene support for displaced people in Myanmar

Published: Jan 7, 2021 Reading time: 4 minutes
Water, sanitation, and hygiene support for displaced people in Myanmar
© Photo: People in Need

After two years of clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army, it is increasingly difficult to meet the basic needs of the tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) and their host communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

To address the IDP’s most urgent needs, People in Need (PIN), together with local partner organisations and the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has been providing people in camps for the displaced in central Rakhine State with protection, nutrition, shelter, integrated assistance in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), camp coordination and camp management (CCCM).

Essential items for IDPs

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, PIN has continued supporting IDPs in 11 camps for displaced people in Mrauk U and Minbya townships. Using a community-based approach, PIN’s collaboration with community volunteers has been critical for delivering humanitarian assistance.

Mg Thein Tun Kyaw, a PIN beneficiary from the Ann Thar IDP camp in Minbya, says: “We have been living at the Ann Thar camp for four or five months. After heavy fighting erupted near our village, we were forced to flee our home. It was not easy for us to move with all eight of my family members. We left everything we had behind. However, we received essential items from PIN, including cooking sets, blankets, soap, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. We thank PIN and the donors for providing for our urgent needs, and we hope the support will continue in the future.”

More than 1,000 people currently live at the Ann Thar IDP camp, which is led by Ma Than Htay, who says the current situation is precarious. “The camp urgently needs more latrines and an improved water collection system,” she says. “We have received enough shelter kits but we need more food rations because I am afraid that we will run out of our food soon, due to COVID-19. The virus has affected the possibility for people in the camps to earn money, because they cannot go outside to look for jobs. PIN provided shelter, non-food items, and handwashing solutions for us, which has been very useful. They also shared health information about COVID-19 through loudspeakers, so we are all aware of how to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Latrines for IDP camps

Through its integrated, multi-sectoral approach, PIN provides lifesaving WASH assistance to displaced populations based on needs identified in the targeted communities and on feedback received from the communities themselves. Aung Naing Win, PIN’s WASH engineer, says: “Many IDP camps struggle with limited living spaces because of the stream of new arrivals. Before we start any activities, we first conduct a site assessment to identify what the displaced communities really need. Our PIN WASH team mainly focuses on access to safe water and basic sanitation facilities, such as latrines, hand washing stations, and bathing stations for women.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, PIN struggled with limited access to the IDP camps. The solution was to hire local contractors to do the construction work in the camps normally done by PIN, while community facilitators, trained volunteers, and other key stakeholders monitored their work from a safe distance.

Aung Naing Win says that the goal is to build at least one latrine for every 50 people in the camp. “PIN engineers develop the latrine’s design so that they are safe to use, accessible for people with disabilities, gender-segregated, and pose minimal environmental risks through the inclusion of excreta disposal systems. We then carefully discuss all of the technical specifications with hired contractors. We also build water collection systems in the camps to harvest rainwater and set up water pumping systems to transport water from rivers to ponds and/or water storage tanks.”

Hygiene kits for 8,000 people

In addition to building WASH infrastructure, PIN has distributed more than 8,200 hygiene kits and hygiene refill kits to displaced households in Mrauk U and Minbya. Based on camp assessments, PIN has also distributed non-food items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets, blankets, clothing, buckets, jerry cans, torches, cooking stoves, cooking utensils, plastic sheets, rope, and bamboo for shelter repairs.

Kyaw Kyaw Nyein, Distribution Field Assistant, says: “I am so proud of being a humanitarian worker and helping people who are most in need during this hard time. Sometimes, in the rainy season, the roads are too bad to cross. Other times we hear gun shots or mines exploding. But when we receive messages of thanks from our beneficiaries, I am happy, and I am proud to have assisted.”

Since 2019, PIN has been cooperating with local civil society organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected populations in central Rakhine State, with financial support from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Autor: Aye Pyae Sone, PIN Myanmar Communication Officer

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