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WaSH – Protected Springs

January 29, 2020

What is a protected spring Springs are a source of water for people and wildlife alike. On the other hand, many of them come out onto a dirty bit of land leading to stagnant water, diseases and ultimately death. Therefore, springs are protected through building concrete steps, a wall and a raised spring around them […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

What is a protected spring

Springs are a source of water for people and wildlife alike. On the other hand, many of them come out onto a dirty bit of land leading to stagnant water, diseases and ultimately death. Therefore, springs are protected through building concrete steps, a wall and a raised spring around them to ensure it is a more sanitised way of collecting water. The spring water is also filtered through an underground pit with rocks to clean the water.

It costs IRT less than £1,000 to install a protected spring.

A protective spring in a Ugandan village means that the villagers, who previously drank contaminated water with the risk of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, will be able to drink safe clean water. The ability to drink clean water only a short distance from their homes is life-saving. It ensures the villagers can get back to education and work. In particular, young girls who are going backwards and forwards to contaminated water sources, instead of going to school.

Villagers using their life-changing protected spring for the first time.

Why I chose to write about refugees

January 29, 2020

Our new volunteer, Jonny Moynihan, looks at the way his dissertation on refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa has led him to work at IRT. Deciding the Topic When I was deciding what subject to write about for my dissertation in MSc -Security Studies at University College London, I wanted to choose an area […]

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Our new volunteer, Jonny Moynihan, looks at the way his dissertation on refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa has led him to work at IRT.

Deciding the Topic

When I was deciding what subject to write about for my dissertation in MSc -Security Studies at University College London, I wanted to choose an area of politics which had been relatively untouched by academics compared to other areas such as the European Union and terrorism.

China and the Uighurs

It led to me wonder about other topics I could choose for my dissertation. I first thought I was going to do it on the link between oil and civil wars. However, it proved to be already vastly researched by academics. The next topic was the discrimination of the Uighur Muslim population by the Han Chinese central government in Xinjiang Province in the northwest of China. Nevertheless, in the end I didn’t end up doing my dissertation on the Uighur population because of the fear of being hacked by the Chinese government and the difficulty of not being able to speak Mandarin, which was a fairly major point come to think of it.

The Refugee Crisis in Europe

On the other hand, searching for another topic, which was both under researched and interesting enough for four months straight, I came across the topic of refugees. I knew virtually nothing about refugees apart from the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and refugee law around the world. At the same time, I thought about the refugee crisis, which was happening in the Mediterranean on islands of Italy and Greece. I had seen the refugee crisis in Europe across the mainstream media and realised that there must be the same issue in Africa. The reason for choosing Africa, and specifically Kenya and South Africa, was because they are English speaking countries with large economies and large refugee populations. Thus, I felt I could research something a bit outside of the box of doing something popular like the refugee crisis in the EU.


Dispelling the myths about refugees

I set about understanding as much I could about refugees and their lives along with their experiences in Kenya and South Africa. From the first moment, even in the first few academic articles and google searches, it completely changed my view on refugees and their daily lives of living in limbo, which became my dissertation title. The first few academic articles about refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa really did dismiss all the myths I was seeing in the media about refugees being economic migrants, coming to the UK just to obtain benefits and ‘steal our jobs’.

Refugee Treatment in Camps

I began to understand that refugees weren’t as David Cameron put it; ‘a swarm’ as he had previously mentioned in a speech, rather that they were just people like you and me, fleeing war and violence to camps or cities in safer countries close to the warzone. I also started to realise that getting to camps wasn’t the end of their trauma of escaping conflict. I learnt about the fact that there is still communal conflict in the camps along with a host of other problems such as gender violence, corruption and inefficiency.

Moving onto IRT

After the process of writing my dissertation and dispelling all of the myths I had previously felt were right, I began to look at charities. At a humanitarian charity, I could put my dissertation research into practice, which led me to volunteer at International Refugee Trust. At IRT, I’m gaining experience about what charities are doing to help refugees in Africa, in states such as Uganda and South Sudan, where even less research academic research is focused.

My Work at IRT

My work at IRT involves writing content for their social media, and using my PR experience to help raise awareness of the current refugee crisis. I also write compelling content for IRT’s website, explaining how their work is so important to bringing thousands of refugees out of poverty. I’m currently working with their project partners on the ground, editing videos showing real stories of the current situation, stuff that the mainstream media simply aren’t broadcasting. I have been working closely with IRT’s Fundraising Manager Jessica Eames and their CEO Steven Smith MBE, learning how IRT works and why my work is so important. Being a volunteer has not only given me insight of the third sector but has been a hugely rewarding experience.


WaSH – Sanitary Towels (Petal)

January 29, 2020

In many low-income countries, menstruation is still seen as an embarrassing, shameful, and unclean process Consequently, many adolescent girls find themselves unprepared for their periods and how to manage them. Staggeringly, less than 50% of girls in low- and middle-income countries have access to basics such as sanitary towels or tampons, soap and water, or […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

In many low-income countries, menstruation is still seen as an embarrassing, shameful, and unclean process

Consequently, many adolescent girls find themselves unprepared for their periods and how to manage them. Staggeringly, less than 50% of girls in low- and middle-income countries have access to basics such as sanitary towels or tampons, soap and water, or facilities to change, clean, or dispose of hygiene products.

Across Uganda as a whole, only 22% of girls are enrolled in secondary schools compared with 91% in primary schools.

In rural areas, the statistics are far worse. One factor in keeping girls out of school is known to be the cost of hygiene products. Almost unthinkably, of those who do attend school, many will have to use old rags, dried leaves, grass or paper – sometimes even tearing pages from school books – in lieu of sanitary towels. Such improvisation frequently leads to the contraction of menstrual diseases.

The stigma surrounding menstruation, lack of understanding, and the unaffordability of hygiene products, all leave girls feeling that they have to stay at home. They miss out on 25% of their education and, in many cases, drop out altogether.

Members of a Petal micro-business demonstrating their wares at a Farmers’ Market

In Uganda, IRT is working together with Wessex Social Ventures and our local partners, Organisation for Community Action, to tackle this appalling situation through a scheme known as ‘Petal’. Under Petal, micro-enterprises produce affordable, reusable sanitary towels that are made and sold by local women. In addition, Petal delivers free, menstrual health education to women and men of all ages, with the aim of eradicating social stigmas.

Training of new Petal entrepreneurs

Petal brings numerous benefits to the community, the customer and the entrepreneur. At community level, women and girls are no longer isolated during menstruation. Girls are able to complete their schooling without interruption. This is critical because, over the long term,  education is crucial to lifting communities out of poverty. For the customer, packs can be as little as 10% of the cost of alternatives.

Women gain back 25% of the year to work and study, and girls can attend school with confidence.

For the entrepreneur, Petal provides a source of sustainable income, enabling them to afford healthcare and schooling for their children. The scheme also empowers women, training them to lead small businesses and developing valuable skills. IRT believes that it is a human right to have access to adequate menstrual hygiene, and is committed to continuing to fund and spread the Petal scheme in Uganda.

Petal entrepreneurs are sensitising schoolgirls on menstrual hygiene and the use of reusable sanitary towels. The girls gain confidence, freely share their experiences, being able to talk about menstruation without shame.

WaSH – Toilets (Roots)

January 29, 2020

ROOTS The treatment and disposal of human waste is becoming increasingly important as the world’s population increases. Every year, over 2 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases – the second most serious killer of children under the age of 5 (WHO). The main source of such infections is human excreta. Clearly, the effective management of […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

ROOTS

The treatment and disposal of human waste is becoming increasingly important as the world’s population increases.

Every year, over 2 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases – the second most serious killer of children under the age of 5 (WHO). The main source of such infections is human excreta. Clearly, the effective management of human waste is key to reducing infant deaths worldwide.

In the developing world, many people use pit latrines

These consist of a hole in the ground, which may be unlined or lined, with a reinforcing material to contain human excreta. They generally provide little shelter or security. Moreover, larger pit latrines, which are often used in schools, are prone to collapsing into the holes over which they are built.

In Uganda, studies have shown that most pupils in rural schools are demotivated by the poor hygiene and sanitation facilities. Pit latrines often lack privacy, have poor ventilation, inadequate hand-washing facilities, and present a high chance of contracting air- and water-borne diseases. Girls especially are likely to drop out of school because of the lack of privacy

New eco-san lavatory blocks at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda, alongside old pit-latrine block.

In Uganda, IRT is working together with Wessex Social Ventures and our local partners, Organisation for Community Action, to tackle this appalling situation through a scheme known as ‘Roots’. Under Petal, micro-enterprises produce ‘eco-san lavatories’ in schools. These enable the conversion of human waste into 100% natural fertiliser. The fertiliser is then sold to local farmers at a lower price than other commercial alternatives.

Pupils pose for a picture in front of the newly-constructed eco-san lavatory block at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda.

The Roots scheme confers enormous benefits.

For the user, it reduces the chances of contracting disease and is both safe and discreet. The school is able to avoid the repetitive and costly task of filling-in existing pit latrines when they fill up, and having to construct replacement toilet blocks. Roots also removes the barrier to girls attending school, especially during menstruation. For the local community, the gains are apparent in a reduction in the spread of disease and the prevention of soil contamination. For the fertiliser customer, the end product can be 70% cheaper than alternatives, and has also been shown to increase crop yields. The entrepreneurs running the Roots micro-enterprises are able to establish a sustainable income over the long term, allowing them to afford healthcare and an education for their children (secondary schooling in Uganda is not free).

“IRT believes that it is a human right to have access to safe, secure and private lavatory facilities, and is committed to continuing to fund and spread the Roots scheme in Uganda”.

Steven Smith, CEO of IRT
Access hatches to waste collection buckets at rear of eco-san lavatory block.
Access hatches to waste collection buckets at rear of eco-san lavatory block.
A pupil poses for a picture in front of the newly-constructed eco-san lavatory block at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda.