In a bid to help prevent the spread of disease, the lead United Nations agency managing camps that continue to house thousands of refugees from last October’s deadly earthquake in Pakistan has just completed a campaign to promote better hygiene.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carried out Operation Heartbeat over the last two weeks in eight camps near Muzaffarabad, the provincial capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and epicentre of the devastating 8 October quake.
As part of the campaign, UNHCR and its partner, Operation Heartbeat, a United States-based medical relief organization, distributed UN Population Fund (UNFPA) hygiene kits containing towels, soap, bandages and liquid antiseptic. Representatives from the camp population were also trained to educate their own communities on hygiene and sanitation issues.
“We need to see camp dwellers not simply as the beneficiaries of humanitarian aid, but as potential contributors to sustainable development,” said Catherine Harding, UNHCR’s community services officer in Muzaffarabad.
Ms. Harding noted that more than half the curative medical services provided in the quake zone since last October have been for diseases linked to poor hygiene and sanitation, making community-based health education essential.
The quake killed more than 73,000 people, injured nearly 70,000 and left millions homeless. While more than 147,000 people have returned home since the refugee camps started closing in March of this year, some 31,000 people continue to live in 56 major camps.