Community cooperation cleaning up Shu’fat camp

29 April 2015
Heiaf (right) taking part in the Health Camp Initiative. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Ruba Hafayda
Khaled Al-Shikh jokes with some of the children of Shu’fat taking part in the Health Camp Initiative. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Ruba Hafayda
Heiaf taking part in the Health Camp Initiative. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Ruba Hafayda

No one likes to live among garbage. But in the overcrowded Shu’fat refugee camp in the West Bank, UNRWA sanitation services are stretched to the limit and garbage piles up in the street. Toxic fumes from burning trash hang in their air.

Happily, this is changing. 

“Fathi and I grew up together and shared a dream of creating a difference in the camp community – of improving our situation. Now, with the support of UNRWA we can realize our dream,” explains Khaled Al-Shikh, Executive Director at the Child Centre in Shu’fat camp in the West Bank.

Khaled and his friend and colleague, Fathi Saleh, who represents Shu’fat camp’s community-based organizations (CBO), walk down one of the main streets in the camp, discussing the cleaner streets and cleaner air. The changing environment is a result of the Healthy Camp Initiative.

“The Healthy Camp Initiative is the result of coordination between the five main community-based organizations in Shu’fat camp and the UNRWA health programme, working together to improve the environmental situation in the camp,” Fathi explains.

The largest manifestation of the UNRWA health programme is the 137 health centres that catered to almost 9.5 million patient visits across the Agency’s five fields of operation in 2014; however, this is backed by an environmental health programme that improves living conditions in refugee camps and reduces the risk of epidemics. The entire health programme is funded by voluntary contributions from donors, the largest of whom is the United States Government. 

For the Healthy Camp Initiative in Shu’fat, UNRWA coordinated capacity-building training for CBO members to strengthen their skills in partnership, management and communication. The CBOs in turn began distributing trash bags and hosting seminars for women to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy environment and clean streets. Khaled from the Child Centre held drama sketches for children to share similar messages.

“As part of the community, I can see the difference: we are much more organized and cooperative now. I feel satisfied seeing clean streets and a healthier environment. For me personally, my dream came true,” says Fathi.

Shu’fat Camp Service Officer Jammal Awwad has also noticed a difference. “This is the first time I have see the community here interacting to improve the situation in the camp, particularly regarding the health situation,” he explains. “People now feel more responsibility towards their community, and this is being shown on the ground.”

Heiaf, 13, was one of the eager participants in the Child Centre’s initiative: “I saw children from the Child Centre cleaning the camp and then joined them. It is important to me to see clean streets to be able to move and walk easily. I couldn’t before,” he says.