23 Mar 2021
By: Nabie Loyce

Malakal –Isaiah Charles, 23, is one of the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan. He has been living here since 2018 when he was forced to flee his home in Fashoda County when fighting broke out. Fashoda is situated in the country’s Upper Nile region, which borders Malakal to the south-west. He joined his mother and siblings who had left before him together with thousands of other people seeking refuge in the UN Protection of Civilians site. Isaiah’s father was among those who were killed because of the violence. “When fighting started and I lost my father, I told my mother to take my six siblings and go to the PoC site because that was the only safe place. I stayed back to look after our remaining property, thinking the situation would be calm in a short while. This was not the case, things moved from bad to worse and worse to worst. I could not stay any longer, I had to join my mother”, says Isaiah. Malakal PoC is the third largest of such sites found across South Sudan. It is home to an estimated 29,600 IDPs.

Thousands of people were displaced from their home when conflict broke out in 2013. Many were displaced within the country while thousands sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Isaiah moves through the blocks within the PoC site sending messages of hygiene promotion to his fellow IDPs. Nabie Loyce/IOM2020

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with other humanitarian partners are constantly working with displaced communities to promote good hygiene as part of efforts to stem the spread of diseases within these displacement sites, many of which are overcrowded and lack adequate sanitation facilities.

IOM trains and employs youth from the PoC site as Hygiene Promoters, responsible for carrying out awareness on proper usage of facilities like water points, latrines, home hygiene, monthly soap distribution to beneficiaries and overall cleanliness of the site. This way, the communities feel involved.  

“These hygiene promotion activities are essential for the welfare of these populations. Without proper sanitation, water supplies can become contaminated and diseases can spread rapidly within the PoC site”, says Kiden Loice, IOM South Sudan’s WASH Community Mobilizer.

Isaiah Charles, 23, one of the twenty-eight hygiene promoters in Malakal PoC site. Nabie Loyce/IOM2020

Isaiah is one of the twenty-eight hygiene promoters working within the PoC sites.

“When I saw that there were increased number of diseases like diarrhea, even malaria in the PoC site, I decide to join the hygiene promotion team. I knew I had a role to play in keeping my community safe and IOM offered me the opportunity which I gladly took advantage of”, says Isaiah.

IOM South Sudan’s hygiene promotion activities also aims to include more community members in the programme by recruiting new hygiene promoters yearly Isaiah’s group has been working for four months.

Hygiene promoters selected from the PoC community. Nabie Loyce/IOM2020

“The money I get from this work helps me to buy clothes for myself and my siblings; it also helps me pay for my school fees. I no longer depend on my mother for every little thing I need. I love the fact that this job has made me independent in just four months,” says Isaiah as he shows me the new sports jersey he just bought.

Isaiah says he is motivated by seeing people clean the neighborhood and take care of the available hygiene facilities.

“I have seen people keeping their homes clean; children are not playing or throwing stones in the latrines anymore. I know this is because of the work of hygiene promoters, which I am happy to be part of. I know that my work is contributing to the welfare of my community, especially now that I have seen a great reduction in the number of people falling sick”, concludes Isaiah.

Water points within the PoC site, Isaiah educates his fellow IDPs to keep these water points clean. Nabie Loyce/IOM2020

To help ease the spread of diseases and build capacity among crisis-affected communities, IOM WASH unit disseminates hygiene messages and supports implementation of hygiene promotion events and campaigns in PoC sites and other locations across the country.

In Malakal, the hygiene promotion activities within the PoC site are supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID BHA), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

Nabie Loyce, IOM South Sudan’s Media and Communications Assistant wrote this story.