Sparking knowledge about fire safety measures: IOM’s Camp Management holds trainings in the Bentiu PoC site
The United Nations Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Bentiu, in the north of South Sudan is home to over 117,000 internally displaced people (IDP).
Here, families live in makeshift shelters built from fairly flammable materials in close proximity, creating substantial fire risk.
Last year, there were nine fire outbreaks in the protection site, and although a significant decrease compared to earlier years in terms of damage caused, the outbreak of fire potentially causing death and destruction is still a major concern for humanitarians working in the PoC site.
“Fire risk increases during the dry season, and the CCCM Unit always strives to prevent incidents and prepare PoC residents in every possible way,” said Hwahyun Kim, Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) acting Programme Coordinator at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan.
To curb the occurrence of fires in the PoC site, the UN Migration Agency’s CCCM unit in Bentiu, in Unity region, organized a training for 539 fire wardens from across all sector blocks in the PoC site. The wardens were selected from various leadership structures including Women and Youth committees, Block leaders, the Traders’ Union and many more to ensure that information reaches different groups and all ages.
The training focused on the causes of fire, the best practices to prevent and mitigate fire including training on the use of fire extinguishers.
Twenty-seven-year-old Yoal Mayok Dar said that he has seen “a raging fire sweep through” a section of a block in the protection of civilians site, destroying homes and leaving families with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
“It was terrible,” said Yoal Mayok who has been living in the PoC site for six years.
“I have seen what fire can do,” he said after a pause.
“This is why I am very happy that IOM is giving us this training – it is very important,” he added.
A fire warden in Sector 3, Block 9 of the PoC site, Yoal Mayok said that he would raise awareness about fire hazards and share the skills and lessons he gained from the training with other residents.
Blazes in the PoC site are widely caused as a result of unattended cooking over an open flame, burning candles and burning of waste.
A challenge that IOM’s Camp Management team continues to face is the extension of shelters that crop up in the PoC site. The illegal structures compromise firebreaks designed as a fire precaution posing a major threat.
“Our team is committed to empowering these communities with fire safety knowledge and practices, which can save hundreds of lives and avoid great damages and losses of shelters,” said Hwahyun Kim. “As we have been doing in the past, we will spare no effort in reducing the risk of fire outbreaks in the PoC site and preparing residents to be able to effectively respond in case of a fire.”
IOM’s fire safety and prevention activities are supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
This article was written by Liatile Putsoa, IOM South Sudan Media and Communications Officer.