Dinah: We want to make soap easily available to refugees
April 13, 2018
As Singajo Dinah Scopas explains the process of making soap under a tree in Palorinya settlement, Moyo district, she has the full of attention of IOM Uganda chief of Mission Ali Abdi. Her large frame, authoritative tone and unhurried confidence give her the aura of a passionate school teacher.
“First, in bucket A we mix about 400 grams of caustic soda with about a quarter a litre of water and stir a little and then we keep that bucket away because it gets so hot,” says Dinah, the chairperson of Hope Women’s Group in Morobi, Palorinya.
“Then in Bucket B, we mix about 10 litres of water with one kilo of tibro and stir until the salt completely dissolves…”
Dinah deliberately details other processes that involve using sulphuric acid, PH paper, urea, colour, sodium silicate, and preservatives.
Hope Group is among the initiatives under a Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in West Nile, implemented by IOM Uganda and funded by European Union Humanitarian Aid to the tune of 2 Million Euros.
The project is funding sanitation and hygiene facilities, piped water systems and public health education for South Sudanese refugees and their host communities in Moyo and Yumbe districts. The goal is to improve hygiene and sanitation and thereby minimize the risk of WASH-related diseases.
Dinah explains that her group was mobilized and trained by Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which is IOM’s implementing partner in Palorinya settlement, home to about 185,000 South Sudanese refugees.
Before war drove her out of her home in Wudu Boma, Kajo Keji County, Dinah was a primary school teacher teaching all subjects to all classes from primary one to five. Like most refugees here, Dinah carries memories of the trauma and fright of war.
At first she resisted the temptation to flee her home country. She had children to teach and her husband was in Juba studying to become a nurse.
“But when it came to January, the war became very serious. They were killing people like nothing. That is when I said that ‘if things are like this, it is better to run away and save my children’.”
Dinah recalls her relief when she crossed into Uganda at Goboro and was received by UNHCR.
“At least I was able to relax. There was no sound of gunshots. That fear was not there. My mind was at least stable.”
With donor funding and support from IOM and LWF, Hope group now makes bar soap, liquid soap, reusable sanitary pads and hand bags.
Although demand was initially slow, Dinah says it is growing. Half a litre of liquid soap costs Shs 1,000 “because the refugees do not have money”. A sanitary pad costs Shs 3500, while a bag costs Shs 3,000
But with LWF support, the women are having to learn how to make their enterprises sustainable. Dinah says when all the materials are sold out, the returns should be able to pay for the raw materials.
“Our hope is to grow this business of soap and pad making so that we can help ourselves and help the refugees so that every household has enough soap for washing and bathing,” says Dinah, whose husband has since abandoned his nursing course to join the family in Palorinya.
“He has not been able to find work because he did not finish his course,” Dinah says of her husband James. “He is now living with us as one family.”