26 Sep 2022
  • Jale Richard | Media and Communications Assistant

Bentiu—When solid waste collection in Bentiu Internally Displace Persons (IDP) camp came to a halt in February 2021 due to funding constraints, waste started piling up across the camp, with garbage littering everywhere.

With limited space capacity within the camp perimeter, the situation became increasingly unbearable.

“We experienced a big challenge since garbage collection stopped at the beginning of 2021,” says Mary Nyalok whose shelter in Sector 3 Block 13 is near the sanitation corridor.

Here, sometimes, open defecation was practiced, while communities continued piling garbage on the corridor.

“We could see garbage pilling and yet there would be no collection,” she recalls.

The 56-year-old mother who lives with her family came to Bentiu IDP camp with her seven children and her husband in 2014, to find safety and to restore her life since they had lost their livelihoods during the civil war that started in 2013.

The garbage posed a big challenge to the entire IDP community. Cases of diseases such as Hepatitis E were reported, including other acute watery diarrhea diseases, affecting mainly children, elderly people, and pregnant women.

In response to such a dire situation, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) resumed collecting garbage from each of the camp’s five sectors and disposing it off at the dumping site—away from the camp.

Mary Nyalok is one of the garbage collectors. She was first selected in 2015, as one of IOM’s garbage collectors at the sector level.

Now, she is helping to drive the scaling-up of solid waste management activities across the camp.

“Life was not easy when we came here, considering the means of livelihood were interrupted by the conflict,” says Nyalok. “But I was lucky to be selected as a garbage collector in Sector 3 Block 13 by IOM and I now can get something (money) for my family.”

Nyalok is among those garbage collectors who are committed to keeping the IDP camp clean. She believes the spirit of creating and maintaining a clean, safe, and healthy environment is a duty of everyone across the camp.

“I am aware that when people keep the environment clean, it prevents the outbreak of diseases such as typhoid and also Hepatitis E. That’s why we are also creating awareness in the community so that everybody participates in maintaining their environment clean,” she adds.

With the coordination of other partners, IOM is responsible for the disposal of solid waste across the IDP camp.

Bags of garbage collected awaiting disposal to the landfill in Bentiu. Photo: IOM/Jale Richard.

In every sector, there are garbage collectors under Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partners responsible for the collection of garbage within each block of settlement. The garbage is then taken to the block’s central collection points where IOM collects for disposal at the garbage landfill.

To further support this initiative, IOM combined these activities with a regular environmental cleaning campaign and Hygiene Promotion messaging through its network of 55 Community Hygiene Promoters, which also disseminated information about the safe disposal of garbage.

“Our work with the garbage cleaners and hygiene promoters is not only to safeguard the environment but also to make sure they earn some money to support their families which plays a pivotal role in improving the community living standards and reducing poverty,” says Sherman Mutengu, IOM WASH Officer in Bentiu.

“They are not going outside the camp to look for firewood for sale because they can actually rely on this work for income.”

To date, IOM continues to manage solid waste across the entire camp, having transported an average of 300 metric tons per week to the landfill for disposal, since it took over these services in Dec 2021, ensuring a clean environment for over 120, 000 living in the IDP camp.

IOM transports an average of 300 metric tons of solid waste per week to the landfill for disposal. Photo: IOM/Jale Richard.

This activity has gone a long way in preventing the spread of diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis in the camp.

“Water supply, sanitation, and hygiene is the backbone of prevention of diseases, especially in congested communities like this one. We are talking about diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and hepatitis E.

“Ensuring safe water quality supply, solid and liquid waste management and also the knowledge on how communities should manage at household level is very important.”

There is a need to continue with support because most of the areas are flooded and we might expect more people to come into the IDP camp so that in case of influx, we shall have resources to respond and provide these services.

IOM’s WASH services are funded by USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA), the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

This story was written by Jale Richard, Media and Communications Assistant, South Sudan

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation