Cleaning to a new beat

Emergencies, In the field article written on the 07 Sep 2011

Oxfam Australia Emergency media coordinator, in Dadaab

The noise was overwhelming – a loud, persistent, beat that rang out across the tents surrounding a water tank at the Ifo extension camps.

This percussive session was not without purpose. It was the soundtrack of an Oxfam program that helps refugees at the camps in Dadaab to keep their jerry cans clean.

Jerry cans are used to store and transport water – but if they are not regularly cleaned, contamination can occur, potentially leading to water and diarrhoea-related diseases.

Oxfam is showing camp residents how to keep their jerry cans clean by inserting ballast (small stones), soap and water into the containers and shaking them vigorously to remove any algae.

Bernard Osman, Oxfam public health promotion officer (pictured above), said the work is already having an impact, with demand from camp residents for soap and ballast to wash their jerry cans.

“To ask that is a positive move, it shows people are conceptualising it.”

The program is run by Oxfam staff, with the help of hygiene incentive workers hired from the camp community to deliver public health messages to their fellow residents.

Among the hygiene incentive workers employed by Oxfam is 20-year-old Noor Issack, who arrived at the Ifo extension camp seven months ago from Somalia.

Speaking about his job promoting health and hygiene, Noor, who was an English student back in Somalia, said he enjoyed becoming “a teacher” to others.

Besides the jerry can cleaning demonstrations, Oxfam’s public health promotion work at Dadaab also includes activities to encourage the proper cleaning of latrines as well as information about the importance of handwashing.

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