Today, we commemorate World Toilet Day to help raise awareness about global sanitation issues where more than 4.5 billion people live without an adequate toilet that disposes waste safely (UN-Water).

Lack of clean water and inadequate sanitation remains one of the biggest health concerns in any overcrowded refugee camp. For the world’s fastest growing refugee settlement in Northern Uganda, disease outbreak, including acute watery diarrhoea/cholera, is imminent. Without toilets and sanitation services that properly disposes waste and safely treats it, the lives of more than a million South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda remain at risk.

Uganda Red Cross, with the support of the Austrian, British and German Red Cross, has helped improve hygiene and sanitation conditions for thousands of refugees through mass hygiene promotion campaigns, access to clean and safe drinking water and construction of latrines.

Uganda Red Cross supports refugees in building household latrines, including labour by volunteers and digging tools such as pick axes, spades, hoes, construction tools, and construction material (slabs, poles, logs, tarpaulins and nails). (Photo: IFRC/ Sumy Sadurni)

In the Imvepi refugee settlement alone, over 600 latrines have been constructed by Red Cross volunteers to support families with access to hygiene and sanitation facilities. Additional facilities have been installed with the help of Red Cross such as trenches that move grey water, fumigation services, rubbish bins, among others.

“Toilets play a crucial part in ensuring the communities in these settlements remain healthy,” says Grace Kyagaba, water, sanitation and hygiene coordinator with the Uganda Red Cross. “These have helped to ensure human waste is not spread and water sources remain uncontaminated.”

Instead of sharing a communal latrine with many others, common to many refugee settlements, Red Cross is also ensuring each family is provided their own household toilet.

A Red Cross volunteer helps a resident of a refugee settlement put tarpaulin on top his latrine in Imvepi Camp.

For refugees like James Anguzu, putting up a latrine had become a daunting task, particularly without the tools or resources. However, with the help of trained Red Cross volunteers, he received construction tools, material and the labour to build the latrine he and his family needed.

“The Red Cross gave me construction tools and we now have a latrine,” says James.

“They have also been checking on us and teaching us many things like keeping the latrines clean and washing our hands. We have learnt a lot and so has our children. We won’t fall sick easily. The Red Cross people have done their part.”

Red Cross is the leading humanitarian agency in Uganda who is supporting more than 12,000 refugees from neighbouring South Sudan in Imvepi Refugee Settlement. In addition to water, sanitation and hygiene activities, the Red Cross is also managing reception and registration of new arrivals; distributing of non-food items, such as soap, jerry cans, mosquito nets and hygiene kits; providing first aid services; connecting lost loved ones; and building shelters. To learn more, please go to www.redcrossug.org/

A Ugandan Red Cross staff member instructs on the use of items in the hygiene buckets at a distribution point in Bidi Bidi Settlement. (IFRC/Sumy Sadurni)