Oxfam training community health volunteers after Nepal Earthquake

Providing water and sanitation, and public health promotion to help communities stay safe, are key parts of Oxfam's Nepal Earthquake response. Here Genevive Estacaan explains how Oxfam is training community health volunteers in Tundikhel camp, Kathmandu.

It's been four weeks since the worst earthquake Nepal has seen for 81 years. Another devastating earthquake struck on the 12th May. Tragically, more than 8,000 people have been killed and around 20,000 injured. The UN estimates that 8 million people across the country are affected.

The scale of need is enormous. When the first earthquake hit on 25th April Oxfam launched an immediate response building on our knowledge base from the long standing country program in Nepal and our expertise in emergency response. We are currently working in seven of the worst hit districts, delivering tarpaulins, food and hygiene kits as well as providing clean water and sanitation. We've reached over 100,000 people so far across Nepal, but to give you an idea of how we are working on a smaller scale let's focus in on Tundikhel Camp, which I visited today.

The Tundikhel Camp lies at the very heart of Kathmandu Municipality where Oxfam has been providing water and temporary toilets for the past three weeks since the great earthquake struck the region.

This camp, the largest in the Kathmandu Valley, provides refuge to more than 5,000 people. Today, we started mobilizing and training some camp members to be Oxfam community health volunteers (CHVs).

Brahmi, one of Oxfam's volunteers, explains to a Tundikhel camp member the responsibilities of becoming a community health volunteer. Photo: Genevive Estacaan/OxfamForming community health volunteers groups is Oxfam's way of enabling camp members to take an active role in maintaining safe hygiene and sanitation practices within the camp. Some fourteen women and seven men signed up this morning, and will be given training on public health promotion. The training centres on raising awareness of four key issues: proper use of latrines, hand washing at critical times, oral rehydration and house-level water purification.

It is sometimes challenging to recruit CHVs as it is purely voluntary and requires people's time. However, people begin to change their mind when they understand how important good sanitation practices are for health and safety, and see that even at this difficult time, they can have agency and take an active role in keeping the camp safe for their communities and families.

Water provision remains a real challenge in Tundikhel. For the first nine days, the Government provided water trucks for the camp, but since 5 May, Oxfam has taken on this role.

Ensuring provision of clean water and decent sanitation is a major priority in all areas. Many water systems have been damaged and there are huge concerns regarding the quality of water available. Toilets have been damaged leading to people defecating in the open, which creates a risk of disease. Oxfam has already sent teams to respond to some reports of diarrhoea and influenza. With the rainy season starting in June, there is a huge risk of disease including cholera.

In Tundikhel, as well as providing clean water and training community health volunteers we've also distributed hygiene kits and provided safe pit latrines. There's a lot of work still to do, but we will continue to do everything we can to help affected communities, to respond to their practical needs now and in the long term.

You can support this work by donating to our Nepal appeal.

This entry posted by Genevive Estacaan, Oxfam Communications Officer, 22 May 2015.

Photos:Top: New arrivals at Tundikhel camp for internally displaced people, Kathmandu. Oxfam is providing water and sanitation to people sheltering there by installing an 11,000-litre water tank and constructing 20 pit toilets. Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Inline: Brahmi, one of Oxfam's volunteers, explains to a camp member the responsibilities of becoming a community health volunteer. Credit: Genevive Estacaan/Oxfam

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