Restoring health and hope

For World Toilet Day this year, Sunday 19 November, we consider the startling reality that there are more people living as refugees and displaced people today, than at any other time in history.

Stories from around the world tell of families forced from their homes –leaving everything behind. As they flee, many witness people being attacked or shot right in front of them. Many lose loved ones. Women are often used as weapons of war.

They flee from bullets and brutality – and flee to sickness and suffering.

Ericaine knows this only too well. Her community was burnt down by militia rampaging through her country of Central African Republic. She took shelter in a camp on a church compound. She had tarpaulin to shield her from the rain, but she had nothing to protect her and her children from hunger, diarrhoea and typhoid.

Without proper latrines, children went to the toilet anywhere and everywhere. The smell was awful: so were the rats and flies. Women would go to toilet in the bush – where they feared being attacked.

Enter the organisation we raise funds for: Tearfund. Water and Sanitation staff capped a nearby spring to provide clean water for residents in the camp, and built them ten toilet blocks and bathing blocks, along with handwashing stations. They trained a small team of residents who were charged with looking after the toilets and making sure people used them properly.

Ericaine volunteered immediately. ‘I wanted to make the camp a healthier place – not just for my family – but for the whole community,’ she says.

Gradually conditions have improved and people are healthier. Ericaine and her team are proud they’ve been able to play a part in protecting their community.

‘We saw a big reduction in sickness and diarrhoea,’ says Ericaine. ‘Here, we live on top of each other, so everyone can hear you when you’re sick. We’d often look after children if a mother was ill.

‘Things are so much better now. I can’t thank you enough for giving us back our health.’

Ericaine’s nation is still volatile: intense violence flares up without warning. But, here at least, in Ericaine’s corner of ‘the unhappiest country in the world’*, she’s able to keep her family safe from disease at least.

*UN poll, March 2017

Help restore hope this World Toilet Day.

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