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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Darfur aid worker's diary V
Sacha Westerbeek is one of the people trying to help some of the one million Sudanese people who have fled their homes in what the UN is calling "the world's worst humanitarian crisis".

She is working for the United Nations children's agency, Unicef, in Nyala, southern Darfur and is writing a diary for BBC News Online about her experiences.

Wednesday 14 July

0800:

This morning I travel with the Unicef Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES) Officer and two people from USAid to Kalma IDP camp to have a look at how the water and sanitation activities are being implemented.

Women building a latrine
Women also want to build latrines - they get paid
This week Jesse Jackson is going to visit Nyala and, of course, we (Unicef and donor USAid) want to show the progress made.

Last week there were about 53,000 people in Kalma camp. Today it is estimated that this has increased to 63,000. The camp is expanding rapidly and new people keep coming in by foot, donkey, donkey cart, taxi or truck.

Many latrines have been built over the last months and some of them are already full. An average latrine is 3 metres deep and 0.8 metres wide.

Following guidelines, we aim to have 1 latrine for 20 people. Facing the present influx of people, this is almost impossible. Wherever we drive and walk we see latrines: old ones (full and almost full), new ones and latrines under construction.

Building a latrine is not as easy as you may think. It requires a latrine slab (made out of cement or plastic), wood, rope and thatch, labour and supervision. In some parts of the camp the terrain is not very suitable for the IDPs to live as the terrain is too flat or on a bit of a slope.

In these cases, there is a risk that the shelters, and also the latrines, will be washed away or flooded when the rains are seriously setting in, as the soil in this area does not absorb the water.

Just try to imagine a flooded latrine washing through your shelter - Not a pretty thing to think about!

So, there is a need to dig ditches that will function as a drainage system. I hope Jesse and his entourage will be impressed with the work done by Unicef, the government and NGOs, especially keeping in mind the constraints we are facing on the ground.


I also hope that the IDP population will look after the latrines in their new communities. Many of them have never used a latrine in their life, and have never been taught to wash their hands with soap after using the facilities.

To educate the people on this is a huge challenge, but crucial for maintaining good health because the risk of communicable disease in the camp is greater than in their home villages.

The IDP community plays an important role in the construction and maintenance of the latrines. Some men in the camp work as "latrine diggers" and receive an incentive for this.

The women have discovered that the men are earning something and want to be part of the "latrine digging team" as well.

1400:

I see a group of men and a group of women digging latrines next to each other. The supervisor tells me that the women are doing a great job. At least they stick to the required measurements. The men are at risk of having too big a gap to fix the latrine slabs properly.

Just imagine the consequence if it slips through while you are doing your business!




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