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Dignity in displaced communities

Australia and UNHCR provide sanitation solutions to improve daily life of displaced families in Marawi City

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New toilet and handwashing facility established in a transitory site in Marawi City

Living together with her mother, cousin, and nephew in a transitory shelter in Marawi City, Najerah is having difficulty finding access to a clean and functioning toilet.

“Ever since we transferred to the transitory site in 2019, we’ve never had a communal toilet. We do have our own toilets at home, but most of the time, there is little to no water supply. This greatly affects the living conditions of families in the transitory site, particularly our health and hygiene,” said Najerah.

Najerah’s family is one of the many families who fled their homes due to the Marawi conflict in 2017. While the government relocated displaced families to transitory sites soon after, access to hygiene and sanitation facilities remains a persistent concern and protection issue. Now, as they face the COVID-19 pandemic, their needs for hygiene and security are even greater.

Beyond hygiene issues, access to water is also significant for Najerah’s community in their religious practices. “For us Muslims, it is important to pray – we visit the mosque almost every day to pray. Before we enter, we need to clean our hands and feet, but visitors are reluctant to ask permission from other families to use their comfort rooms, given the ongoing pandemic,” said Najerah.

To help address these issues, the Australian Government in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Philippines, humanitarian partners, and the local government of Marawi City, implemented a project which provided the transitory site with a public toilet and handwashing area that is accessible to all families in the community.

A staunch advocate of sustainability, development, and peace in Mindanao for more than 20 years, the Australian Government recently partnered with UNHCR Philippines to improve the protection conditions of internally displaced persons and reduce the risks faced by these communities in Mindanao.

Najerah’s community is among those being supported by this partnership. Today, Najerah is grateful that they now have a clean and reliable toilet and handwashing area.

“It makes our community cleaner and more beautiful. Thanks to the new toilet and sinks, we can comfortably clean ourselves even when we are outside our homes. This is a big help for us. We are a healthier community because of this, she says.

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A child washes his hands in the handwashing facility during COVID-19

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