REACH assists WASH sector to address Hepatitis E epidemic in Yida Refugee Settlement

July 19, 2013

Voices from the Field : Featured Article

South Sudan: Since January, worrying levels of Hepatitis E have been observed in Yida Refugee Settlement, home to over 70,000 refugees, the majority of whom are children. In partnership with UNCHR, REACH has been assisting WASH actors in several ways to help inform their strategies for addressing this problem.

Maps have been made of all the latrines in the camp using information coordinated between different partners, as well as a map of areas of the camp where people report high levels of open defecation. REACH has also mapped over 1000 holes created by people digging earth to make bricks, which with the upcoming rainy season will soon become prime sites for the disease to spread as children play in dirty water. Using the Yida Address System, REACH is also working to provide information on how many people are using each borehole in Yida, and the distances they have to walk to fetch water. This will help partners to plan a new system of tapstands across the camp, reducing the temptation to collect surface water during the rainy season rather than walking long distances.

A REACH designed assessment is also underway to help health actors understand people’s beliefs about Hepatitis E and its causes. This has already found that most refugees prefer to use traditional doctors in treating Hep E, and that therefore the epidemic is probably underreported, as many people never go to hospitals. It has also found worrying misinformation about the causes of Hep E, as many believe it is caused by eating too much oil, rather than by a lack of proper hygiene.

By combining geographic imaging with a nuanced understanding of people’s traditional beliefs, REACH is providing WASH and Health partners with the information they need to address this urgent issue.

To learn more about REACH’s work in South Sudan, please visit our country page.