Wihdat refugee camp cleans up and honours its workers

30 May 2011

May 2011
Wihdat refugee camp, Jordan

Health awareness posterIt’s been a big few weeks in Wihdat refugee camp in Amman, Jordan.

First, King Abdullah visited and announced measures to improve refugees’ quality of life in the camp, which is also known as Amman New Camp. And its football team once again won the right to represent Jordan in the Asian Football Confederation Cup next year.

Then UNRWA, backed by government and the private sector, mounted an environmental awareness campaign that took the form of a litter clean-up, art displays, community presentations, and recognition of local environmental heroes – the sanitation workers who strive to keep the camp clean every day.

The event was the brainchild of Dahoud Dawas, UNRWA’s south Amman area chief. “Waste management is a big problem in the camp,” he said. “It’s a matter of educating the community. That’s what today was all about.”

Ten carts and 40 students

Students cleaning up UNRWA installationsThe vanguard of the campaign was a convoy of ten carts, each one steered by an UNRWA sanitation labourer and staffed by four students, two boys and two girls.

“It was an honour for us to lead the way and show everyone the value of our work and a clean environment,” sanitation labourer Majed Shehdeh Abu-Ghuwaim said.

The students and their lead workers picked up seven cubic metres of litter during the morning – not a big dent in the 144 cubic metres generated in the camp each day, but symbolically significant as they worked the streets, dressed in UNRWA t-shirts and caps provided by a local business.

Art as education

Passing by UNRWA installations, the teams saw government partners from the Greater Amman Municipality painting school walls, removing rubble and spraying insecticide.

The painters were careful not to obscure large artworks depicting environmental messages created by staff and students from UNRWA schools in the camp.

In the girls prep school, too, art delivered the message. The municipality’s deputy chief opened an exhibition of artworks from all schools in the south Amman area. The works pulled no punches about the health effects of a polluted urban environment.

Before the exhibition, municipality guests, community members and students had taken part in a joint lecture and discussion on environmental health issues.

Recognition for the workers

The event climaxed in a ceremony honouring the work of UNRWA’s 40 sanitation labourers, doorkeepers and attendants in other UNRWA Wihdat facilities, and five municipal counterparts.

“Wihdat is under environmental pressure from an increasing commercial presence and population growth,” Dahoud Dawas said.

“But the spirit of partnership we saw today between UNRWA, the community, the municipality and the private sector gives me confidence that we are on the right track.”

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Text by Jeff Fitzgibbon

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