Sanitation, Cooking Fuel Projects Aid Women and Girls in Pakistan
As part of its programs to assist Pakistanis displaced by the current fighting, the International Rescue Committee has launched a project to address the urgent need for sanitation and cooking fuel on the part of 20,000 people in the Nowshera district's Jalozai camp. Women and girls will especially benefit from the effort.
Under the project, IRC staff will teach displaced families how to use cooking fuel more efficiently, freeing up much-needed household income and minimizing the risk of assault as women and children leave the relative security of the camps to collect firewood and other fuels.
The new project builds on a recent initiative that provided emergency water and sanitation services to approximately 7,000 displaced in Jalozai. Under that program, the IRC constructed over 400 latrines, 200 washing places and installed 100 water storage tanks. IRC teams also built 100 washing pads, 100 laundry areas, 100 water collection points and 100 garbage disposal points.
Respecting culture and tradition
Waqas Halim, the IRC’s water and sanitation manager in Pakistan, says that the IRC uses an innovative approach that respects culture and tradition.
“The lack of separate latrines and washing areas for men and women is simply not acceptable according to purdah, the North-West Frontier province tradition of female covering,” he says. “As a result, women and girls feel forced to bathe and attend to personal hygiene inside their tents, adding to already poor hygiene conditions.”
“To address this problem we constructed sanitation blocks for every 10 families within a purdah wall,” Halim explains. “The sanitation block will be exclusively for the use of the families living in the block, encouraging greater ownership and care for the facilities. Most importantly, as the facilities are in line with purdah, women have no problems accessing them for sanitation, laundry and hygiene needs.”
Fuel for cooking is costly
According to an IRC survey, the average displaced family spends almost 10 percent of their meager household income on fuel. As a result, people scavenge fuel – including brush, plastic bags and other trash – rather than purchase firewood at the local rate. Women and children were also spending significant amounts of time daily collecting firewood from the areas surrounding the camps, making them vulnerable to assault.
“This has led to tension between the displaced and the host community, as well as keeping children out of school,” notes Abdul Haseeb. “The IRC has introduced fuel efficient stoves and techniques such drying moist wood near the fire prior to using it, which will teach the displaced how to manage their daily fuel intake more responsibly.”
“This illustrates how simple solutions can be used to help the displaced, as long as we listen to the needs of the people,” said Haseeb. “Our next step is to urgently increase access to clean water, better sanitation and basic healthcare for the huge population of displaced living outside the camps.”