Ibrahim, 5 year-old son of Aisha, happily opening the latrine's door installed by World Vision in the surrounding of Zahle area in Bekaa
The story of Aisha, 34, a Syrian refugee mother currently living with her 7 children between the ages of one and 16 in a tent in the Bekaa valley, in eastern Lebanon. Aisha speaks about the impact that World Vision's Water Sanitation and Health project has had on her life and on the lives of her children.
The path to Aisha’s tent is filled with lots of mud and small rocks. The uneven ground is littered old, unused stuff, like chairs and broken appliances. Between tents, round, white structures—latrines—and water tanks can be seen.
“Two months ago, we did not have all this,” says Aisha, 34-year-old Syrian refugee woman. “[The] children used to pee outside the tent, in a hole in the ground, and get their bodies dirty. Today, we have a latrine installed by World Vision and actually it is great,” she adds.
As part of the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project in the Zahle area in the Bekaa valley, funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), World Vision installed latrines around Syrian refugee tents as part of informal tented settlements. According to sphere project launched in 1997 to develop a set of minimum standards in core areas of humanitarian assistance, one toilet should be installed for every 25 persons. Yet, to have a better impact on Syrian refugees, World Vision installed one latrine for every 15 people.. The organization also installed water tanks around the settlement allowing Syrian refugees to access clean portable water (the 1000 litre tanks are filled by World Vision every 10 days) and grey water (filled as needed).
“We have everything we need [in terms of water and hygiene] now. It is definitely much better than before,” says Khalluf, Aisha’s 16-year-old son. “Water is reaching our tent through hoses [now]. Before World Vision, we used to fill water in buckets to get washed or clean our tents or throw it the hole that contains our sewage,” he adds.
The potable water World Vision uses to fill the tanks is tested in specialized laboratories to make sure it has a healthy composition. As a secondary precaution, however, World Vision also distributed two water filters for each household.
“World Vision’s duty is to ensure the right environment for Syrian refugees, even though they live in tented settlements. These tents are the refugees’ homes now and through the WASH project we wanted to make it [as] comfortable [as possible],” says Simon Tawk, World Vision’s WASH project manager.
As part of the WASH project, World Vision dug a big hole in the ground, and installed a 200 litre hidden septic tank, connected to the latrines, to contain the sewage water. These tanks are emptied by specialized trucks monthly. The refugees pay the truck drivers to empty the septic tanks with vouchers distributed by World Vision.
“[The] WASH project provides Syrian refugees with the indispensable components of their lives, such as potable water to drink and prepare food, and gray water for toilets and showering,” says Simon, who also points out that by these efforts, “World Vision seeks to alleviate their suffering.”
Khalluf lives in the tent with his mother, Aisha, his father, Abdel Wahab, and his seven siblings. He’s the eldest child. Eight months ago, the family fled the war in Aleppo and found refuge in the Bekaa, where other relatives resorted before them.
“We can flush the toilet and we are doing well, much better than before. There is nothing like home, but our situation is better now,” says Khalluf.
World Vision raises refugees’ awareness on the importance of proper hygiene through information sessions given by health promoters in settlements, as part of the WASH project.
“We seek to help Syrian refugees adapt to their new lives and situations by raising their awareness on health and hygiene habits inside camps,” says Simon. “We know that they had great habits back home, but living in a tented settlement is different and our duty is to help them adapt.”
The WASH project in Zahle area in Bekaa reached 1,000 Syrian households thanks to World Vision and ECHO. So far, World Vision in Lebanon benefited 24,500 Syrian refugees through to WASH project.