Situation Report
Falmata (right) is relaxed and busy in knitting a traditional cap. Photo: CIDAR

Greater safety for vulnerable women and girls in camps

For women and girls living in IDP camps, the most natural everyday actions can be source of anxiety and danger. Falmata Bukar, 25, tells us how an intervention from Center for Integrated Development and Research (CIDAR) is making her feel more secure and helping her lead a life in dignity.

Falmata fled her home in Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State four years ago. She and her siblings are living alone in the Muna El-Badawi Camp, on the outskirts of Borno State capital Maiduguri. Falmata refuses to be lingering in the camp and sitting idle causes her frustration. She can be seen knitting caps for several hours in front of her shelter. The occupation brings her some revenue to support her family.

She however had, until recently, been living in constant apprehension. She had been concerned about her extreme vulnerability every time she had to go to ease herself. Toilets blocks in the camp were far away from her shelter and in deplorable state as nobody was willing to wash them, and the smell was intolerable. Some organisations used to give detergent, disinfectants and cleaning tools at regular intervals but these were never sufficient to maintain the facilities. Many IDPs preferred open defecation to entering the toilet blocks, and the entire area used to smell. And it was even worse when it was raining.

Falmata and other women and girls in her part of the camp preferred to go to nearby bushes. Fulmata recalls how stressful this was for her as she had to wait for hours and was often going in the dark, at night. She felt unprotected and unsafe. She always tried to accompany someone from the family or asked a friend to escort her. This was nerve-racking and she was extremely uncomfortable.

On 23 May, a fire broke out in the camp and ravaged many shelters in the camp. All her belonging were burned down to ashes. Many aid organisations provided immediate support, With funding from the NHF, CIDAR constructed six blocks of latrines and showers close to where her shelter was rebuilt. “Now, I don’t fear for safety when I need to go to the toilets anymore,” explained Falmata. “I feel safer even when I have to go alone at night. These toilets are protected and covered. Women, girls and children can make use of these sanitation facilities at any time of the day and night.”

Falmata’s family and neighbours receive support from CIDAR to clean, disinfect and conduct general maintenance of these sanitation facilities. Toilet Users’ Groups have been constituted to look after newly constructed sanitation facilities (WASHCOMs) and they conduct the daily cleaning. “Even our younger brothers and sisters now easily go to the toilets. Fear of going to the toilets is now history!” she said, laughing.