Refugee Ndagijimama: Helping his Community Prevent Waterborne Diseases

June 24, 2019

By Abubaker Mayemba and Yuji Kawai. 

Charles Ndagijimana is among a family of seven who arrived in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was six years old when parents took refuge in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, Kikuube district in 1997 after war broke out in their village. 

Now aged 26, Ndagijimana has adapted to life in Kyangwali and he is helping keep his community clean and hygienic. Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, situated near the shores of Lake Albert and DRC’s volatile eastern region, has been hit by a number of WASH-related disease outbreaks in recent years. 

Charles Ndagijimana in front of IOM's car. 

In February 2018, the Ministry of Health notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of cholera in Kyangwali. The outbreak, which started on 15 February, had 700 confirmed cases and 27 deaths by 23 February, with new arrivals and few members of the host community as the most affected populations. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Fund (CERF) and the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) joined other agencies in responding to the outbreak. Ndagijimana was recruited as a hygiene promoter and almost a year and a half later, he continues to disseminate messages of good hygiene practice in his home area, which has over 160 households. 

“Before I was selected and trained as a hygiene promoter by IOM around February last year, people here were defecating everywhere. As a result, people were dying from cholera in this area. Today, I no longer see hygiene-related deaths after I started hygiene promotion and IOM constructed latrines for homes,” says the 28-year-old. 

Despite walking house-to-house, Ndagijimana says he likes his job because his work greatly impacts society. But he also earns a small allowance, which helps him support his family.

IOM has constructed over 1,500 latrines to refugee households in Kyangwali settlement and launched hygiene promotion for newly-arrived refugees from the DRC together with hygiene goods to improve the deteriorating hygiene environment in the settlement. Through its implementing partner Lutheran World Foundation (LWF), IOM has established two soap-making groups which help refugees generate income. 

Ndagijimana with LWF hygiene promoters. 

When John Maniriho arrived in Kyaka II December 2018 with his wife, five children and mother, they were allocated a land where they managed to set up a mud house.  He could not afford to buy a basin or jerrycans from his meagre income as he had to feed his family. The few utensils they had were poorly stored which exposed his family to waterborne diseases. 

John Maniriho with one IOM staff, Bashir. 

Over the past years, IOM has been able to support households like Maniriho’s with Non-Food-Items (NFIs) like basins, jerrycans, soap, hand washing facilities (tippy taps), children’s potties, and sanitary pads to promote hygienic practices. 
With funding from CERF and European Union humanitarian aid, IOM and partners continue to offer life-saving support in the refugee settlements of Kyaka II, Kyangwali and Palorinya. Besides the above interventions, IOM has also built piped water systems in the three settlements as well as in Bidibidi.