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IRT Update – News from IRT regarding COVID-19

March 17, 2020

Dear Partners and Friends of IRT, As you will be aware, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had a massive impact on countries all over the world.  The situation in the UK has worsened and yesterday our government made an announcement regarding keeping safe and preventing the spread of the virus.  We have taken their advice, […]

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Dear Partners and Friends of IRT,

As you will be aware, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had a massive impact on countries all over the world.  The situation in the UK has worsened and yesterday our government made an announcement regarding keeping safe and preventing the spread of the virus. 

We have taken their advice, and all London IRT staff will now be working remotely from home.  We will not be present in the office until further notice.  We are still using our usual irt.org email addresses and phone numbers, so please do contact us should you have any queries or would like to make a donation at info@irt.org.uk

We are working our usual hours, but there may be a slight delay in responding to your messages. 

We appreciate your cooperation and patience, we will try to keep things running as smoothly as possible in this difficult time, and will continue to support our various projects overseas as usual.

On behalf of everybody at IRT, please be safe and we hope to be back to normal as soon as possible.


Why refugees’ self-reliance is important.

February 25, 2020

Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it. Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 […]

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Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it.

Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration

Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 m refugees that run from political instability and violence from neighbouring countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Despite the massive influx of refugees, Uganda is considered one of the most progressive refugee hosting countries in the world because of their ‘Refugee Self-Reliance Strategy’. Under this model, refugees have the right to work and move freely within the country, which is believed to have supported the national economy’s development. Moreover, Uganda’s government has been allocating plots of land for these refugees so they can grow their own food, which makes them less dependent on food aid, boosting their self-esteem and providing them with useful skills that they can use in rebuilding their communities upon return.

How is IRT working towards the achievement of this goal?

IRT acknowledges the importance of self-sufficiency for refugees by partnering with the Organisation for Community Action (OCA) which operates in Uganda, and aims to empower people to force a positive change through their StepUp Programme.

StepUp is divided in four main areas: sustainable agriculture, social ventures, savings, credit, gender and community development. In order to promote sustainable agriculture, better farming as well as crop management skills are taught. The social venture project is mainly focused on three enterprises: improving hygiene, raising awareness about solar lighting and production of sanitary pads. As a member of the community expressed: “I was very ignorant because I did not go to school. Because of OCA, I acquired a lot of knowledge. I now use a sewing machine and make reusable sanitary towels for women and young girls in the community”. Refugees were also trained to manage their own finances, explore small scale business opportunities and loan record keeping. As another member of the community indicated: “OCA taught me how to do business, and I thought about selling cooking oil, soap and onions. The business is helping me in paying school fees, that is why I thank OCA for the plan that they gave me”. Lastly, IRT aims to empower women within their own community encouraging them to take on leadership roles and offering girls basic education. As refugees, Aceng Collin and Ogwal Bruno, shared: “I thought girl-child education was useless, I never advised my children to study hard. We did not bother to check their report cards. When OCA came in, they trained us on the importance of education and encouraged us to give our girls equal treatment as the boys.” 

My experience in Kenya compared to Uganda

I think that IRT’s support to the StepUp Programme is crucial to ensure the self-sufficiency of refugees to remind them of their autonomy and agency. Fleeing one’s home is a traumatic experience for many refugees, normally having terrible consequences for their mental health, self-confidence and integration in the host society. During my experience last year living in Kenya where there is an encampment law that does not allow refugees to leave the refugee camps, I understood how relevant projects like StepUp are to provide refugees with the skills to depend on themselves and integrate. IRT acknowledges this issue and needs your support to make the life of refugees in Uganda much better.


WaSH – Boreholes

January 31, 2020

What is a Borehole? Boreholes are narrow wells operated by hand pumps, which tap into the deep water reserves of aquifers (underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock), providing safe, accessible and reliable water for entire communities. IRT are working to fund boreholes in rural northern Uganda. It costs IRT £3000 to install a Borehole. This […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

What is a Borehole?

Boreholes are narrow wells operated by hand pumps, which tap into the deep water reserves of aquifers (underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock), providing safe, accessible and reliable water for entire communities. IRT are working to fund boreholes in rural northern Uganda.

It costs IRT £3000 to install a Borehole.

This is small price to pay to ensure that no child has to choose between an education and safe water.

Following a period of high population growth, 22 million people in Uganda lack access to safe drinking water – that’s 51% of the Ugandan population. High demand and poor management mean there is a fundamental lack of facilities providing clean water, leading to the spread of chronic waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. One effective solution is borehole wells, sources of fresh water which are created by drilling into the ground.

The construction of a Borehole.

The Ugandan government has previously installed boreholes during the creation of camps set up for villagers to flee to during the terrifying insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Following the aftermath of the LRA’s destruction, internally displaced Ugandans have been able to move back to their homes, where they are now hours away from the camp boreholes. Villagers are faced with the choice of trekking several miles a day to fetch clean water from camps or make shorter trips to contaminated water sources such as unprotected springs. Often, the job of fetching water falls on women and girls, reinforcing gender inequality as they are unable to work or go to school as a result of travelling on foot for 4 or 5 hours a day.


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.

WaSH – Impacts on health

January 28, 2020

WaSH stands for ‘water, sanitation and hygiene’. Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WaSH is a key public health issue within international development. Successful WaSH programmes can improve health, life expectancy, student learning, and gender equality, while reducing poverty and infant mortality. Since 2000, billions of people have gained access to basic drinking water and […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

WaSH stands for ‘water, sanitation and hygiene’. Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WaSH is a key public health issue within international development. Successful WaSH programmes can improve health, life expectancy, student learning, and gender equality, while reducing poverty and infant mortality.

Collecting water from a contaminated source – Uganda

Since 2000, billions of people have gained access to basic drinking water and improved sanitation facilities. But, often, these remain unsafe. Many homes, medical facilities and schools still lack soap and water for handwashing. This puts the health of all people – but especially young children – at risk of contracting diseases, such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

Mother and baby visit a medical facility in Uganda

Lack of sanitation contributes to hundreds of thousands of child deaths every year. The statistics are shocking:

  • Today 1 in 3 people or 2.2 billion people around the world lack safe drinking water.

  • Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation.

  • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces.

  • Some 297 000 children – more than 800 every day – under five who die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water. 

  • Children younger than age 5 in countries experiencing protracted conflict are 20 times more likely to die from causes linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence.

  • 1 million deaths each year are associated with unclean births. Infections account for 26% of neonatal deaths and 11% of maternal mortality. 

  • Hygiene promotion is the most cost-effective health intervention.

  • 2 out of 5 people or 3 billion people around the world lack basic handwashing facilities at home. 

  • Universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene would reduce the global disease burden by 10%.

In Uganda, the situation is particularly desperate

The current child mortality rate in Uganda is listed at 131 per 1,000 live births, or an effective mortality rate of 13.1%. This makes it the highest under-5 mortality rate in Eastern Africa. According to reports from the World Health Organization, Uganda is one of 24 countries that contribute 80% of the world’s deaths of children who are under the age of 5.

It is estimated that diarrhoea alone, one of three major childhood killers in Uganda, kills 33 children every day. In most cases, children get the disease by drinking unsafe water or coming into contact with contaminated hands that have not been washed with soap. 

Early childhood diarrhoea can be deadly. Even when it is not, it contributes to Uganda’s high levels of stunting, which goes on to undermine children’s cognitive development and performance at school.

One key measure that will reduce childhood illness and death is to stop using open fields or the bush as toilets. In Uganda, nearly a tenth of the population practices open defecation, and two thirds of households do not use soap when washing their hands. 

Through our programmes in Uganda, IRT aims to:

Delivering education in WaSH to a community
  1. Provide clean water through boreholes and protected springs, located close to communities.
  2. Encourage communities to construct pit latrines.
  3. Provide education in sanitation and hygiene measures – including the use of ‘tippy-taps’ for handwashing, dish-drying racks, the need to wash hands with soap and to ensure the cleanliness of homes.
  4. Create waste management systems through the use of rubbish pits.


WaSH – Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

January 28, 2020

Clean water, sanitation and hygiene are basic human rights. They are essential to ensure that children grow up healthy and happy. In Uganda, thousands of men, women and children are stuck in a devastating cycle of poverty where thirst and disease are so routine that they have become a normal part of everyday life. Not […]

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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

Clean water, sanitation and hygiene are basic human rights. They are essential to ensure that children grow up healthy and happy.

In Uganda, thousands of men, women and children are stuck in a devastating cycle of poverty where thirst and disease are so routine that they have become a normal part of everyday life. Not only does contaminated water kill, the long treacherous journey to collect this water prevents thousands of young girls from going to school.

The Problem

More than 7 million children below the age of 5 die every year in the world. Contaminated water is a major cause.

Child mortality in Uganda is 131 per 1,000 live births. This makes it the highest under-5 mortality rate in Eastern Africa. Contaminated water is one of the main causes.

Diarrhoea is one of 3 major childhood killers in Uganda. It kills 33 children every day. Most get the disease by drinking unsafe water or by contact with contaminated hands.

Around 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoea because they rely on unsafe water. Many are children.

In Uganda, thousands do not have water close to home. Every day, many young girls make the long walk to collect water, which is often contaminated. This prevents them going to school.

The Solution

Boreholes! Installing boreholes in remote villages in Uganda, which eradicate the problem of contaminated water.

If the target of 90% access to safe drinking water is achieved by 2020, 8.3 million Ugandans, including children, will be protected from water-borne diseases like diarrhoea.

IRT are on the case

IRT concentrate on providing long term solutions, not quick fixes. We help refugees to be self-sufficient, so we can leave, and help the next village that needs our help.

Not only are we building boreholes in many remote villages in Uganda, we are installing protected springs, pit latrines, dish-drying racks, rubbish pits, and tippy taps.

We are building toilets, so refugees have a clean and private place to go to the loo. Not only does this decrease the amount of disease in the villages caused by bad sanitation, this gives so many, especially women, the dignity they deserve.

IRT also train the villagers on how sanitation is important to a long and healthy life, from cooking and cleaning, to women’s sanitation, and providing washable, reusable sanitary towels.

Villagers thrilled to be using their new borehole

How much does it cost?

It costs us around £3,000 to install a borehole which provides clean water to a whole village. 

A protected spring costs us £930 to install. 

A ‘tippy tap’ costs just £2.23! Watch this video to see how simple it is to make.

A 3 pack of resuable sanitary towels cost £1.40 for a 4-month supply.

A bar of soap costs 41p.

A Pit Latrine lavatory costs us £458 to construct and install.

We need your help

All of this equipment is funded by you, our incredible supporters. All donations go towards building vital boreholes and other lifesaving equipment to provide clean water to millions of refugees, changing their lives forever and bringing them out of the cycle of poverty and suffering.

Any donation large or small will be an enourmous help to our friends in Uganda. Donate today to make a difference.

Read more about this life saving project:

WaSH – Toilets (Roots)

WaSH – Impact on health

WaSH – Sanitary Towels (Petal)

WaSH – Protected Springs

WaSH – Boreholes