Hygiene upscaling in Benue camps: A vision becomes reality

Hygiene upscaling in Benue camps: A vision becomes reality

In April 2020, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) embarked on a mission to improve the hygiene profile of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Daudu, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State. Prior to its intervention, the hygiene experience was declared at zero level.

And the reasons were not far-fetched: the camps in Daudu were littered with faeces and used menstrual pads; one could barely walk without stepping on them. The toilets were either dysfunctional or not properly maintained, and the camp lacked access to a basic water supply. Food sellers’ lack of hygiene also exposed IDPs to recurrent bouts of cholera and typhoid diseases.

Hamza, an IDP, who lost his wife five years ago during an inter-tribal conflict is one of the several IDPs living caught in the peril of the unsanitary camp conditions.

Seeking safety, he fled his community with his four children who are underage and together, they made the Dauda IDP camp their new home.

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“Life has not been easy,” he said. Being unemployed he has no means to provide for the needs of his children thus he must make do with whatever meagre support he gets from the camp even as he struggles to keep his family safe amid the unhygienic conditions of their resettlement camp.

Hamza and his children represent a fraction of the millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who struggle to get life’s basic necessities in the midst of so many challenges.


At the end of 2019, some 45.7 million people were internally displaced due to armed conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations, according to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

In northeast Nigeria, there are currently 1.9 million people displaced from their homes. Sixty percent of them are children, with 1 in 4 under the age of five.

The situation in Benue has become worrisome to both the government and civil societies. The situation at the Dauda IDP camps, for instance, is compounded by the massive influx of IDPs into the already crowded resettlement centers; the lack of good hygiene and promoters of cleanliness further aggravates the camps’ unsanitary condition.

Findings have also revealed that certain members of the host community sometimes sneak into the IDP camps to defecate in the open. It is almost impossible to identify and punish those responsible since there were no volunteer watchdogs, according to camp officials.

Sustainable Action Plan

Previous efforts by several Organizations to scale-up the hygiene profile of these IDP camps did not last as there was no sustainability. There were no volunteer hygiene promoters, neither were their community watchdogs to enforce sanctions. Thus, in its mission to improve hygiene on the IDP camp, UNICEF had to develop a comprehensive action plan that is both workable, and sustainable.

Part of the action plan was to set up and train volunteer hygiene promoters who, among other things, will evaluate hygiene risks, provide hygiene education, and create sustainable relationships. A structure that was setup to ensure sustainability was the arrangement to follow up with weekly visits. These camp dwellers were going to be trained on why and how to own their environment.

Arrangements were also made to mobilize CSOs in Benue State with expertise in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, (WASH). Facilitators and implementors were trained on Menstrual Health Management (MHM). They would in turn educate these camp dwellers on how best to manage their menstrual wastes effectively, thus eliminating diseases that results thereof.

An interesting aspect of the programme was the ‘Use the Toilet Campaign’. Josephyn Pitila, a hygiene hero and development worker who works with UNICEF notes that the campaign had as its objective an end to open defecation in the camps. To ensure compliance and get positive results, volunteer watchdogs were set up. They would carefully monitor any intrusion from members of the host community who sneak in at regular intervals to defecate in the open, and the activities of camp dwellers who insisted on defecating openly rather than use the toilets.

On one occasion, a man was caught defecating in the open at night. The volunteer watchdogs caught him, and he was asked to pay a fine of 1,000 Naira. But since he did not have the money to pay, his meal ticket was seized until he could pay the fine.

On another occasion, another man was caught who would usually use the toilet, but instead of defecating inside the toilet bowl and flush subsequently, he was in the habit of stooling round the edges of the slabs and leaving the toilet messed up every single time. After many pleas from his wife who ironically happened to be a nurse, he and his wife were made to do community service and wash the toilet every day for one week.

The ‘Use the Toilet Campaign’ also focused on training the locals on the need to practice effective handwashing to stop the spread of diseases.

Food vendors were now required to have transparent glass or plastic boxes with which to showcase their goods to prevent flies from contaminating them. Any vendor who defaulted risked having his goods seized.

The New Face of Daudu IDP Camps

Barely one year later, the remarkable transformation looks too good to be true. The environment is clean, and no trace of human waste can be seen in the open as their fight to end open defecation has paid off. Food vendors use plastic or glass boxes to showcase their goods to avoid contamination. They have a system of maintaining their toilets hygienically, and even children can be seen adopting the effective hand-washing practice. The hygiene promoters are always on hand to educate new intakes on hygiene practices thus, ensuring the sustainability of their efforts.

Even though countless initiatives at hygiene upscaling these IDP camps failed, this vision did become a reality.

Vanguard News Nigeria

The post Hygiene upscaling in Benue camps: A vision becomes reality appeared first on Vanguard News.


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