Clean water and sanitation is one of the components of Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations in 2015. WASH (WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene) continues to be a development priority at the United Nations and UNICEF because safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education, can reduce illness and death, and also affect poverty reduction and socio-economic development. Historically speaking, WatSan (Water and Sanitation) was a popular term, especially in the emergency response sector, but then WASH took over because of the integral role of hygiene education in this sector.
Mercy Hands' experience in WASH dates back to June 2005 when it implemented a WASH project supported by IOM and it was about setting up latrines and sanitation system in Gumaira IDP village in east Baghdad. Since then Mercy Hands has implemented numerous WASH projects all over Iraq.
In the last three years, Mercy Hands implemented five projects that involve WASH activities.
The first of these four projects was implemented in the beginning of 2017 and in partnership with HELP. Mercy Hands distributed hygiene kits to IDPs fleeing Mosul. This project was implemented from November 2016 to February 1017, during which a total of 5,570 families fleeing Mosul received hygiene kits.The second project was implemented in partnership with DKH and it was about increasing livelihood opportunities and food security for small and medium sized farmers and vulnerable women in North East Syria. This was a livelihood project but it had a WASH component. 12 water wells were built in four villages in North East Syria. The project was implemented between September 2018 and April 2019.
A landmark in our WASH experience was partnering with UNICEF in October 2018 to implement a large 7-months WASH project that focused on improving hygiene practice and safe sanitation services for children in schools and their families in the IDPs, returnees, host and vulnerable communities and/or at high risk of waterborne diseases in Baghdad. Our engineers upgraded or installed water and sanitation facilities in the targeted 23 schools in Baghdad.
Apart from the engineering work, our Health and Hygiene Educators established sanitary health clubs in the 23 schools to educate and promote for the best practices of hygiene, conducted regular educational sessions that included the practice of group hand washing events, and prepared training materials and promotional materials to support the awareness raising subjects. In addition, our Health and Hygiene Educators conducted menstrual hygiene management and hygiene promotion training for 60 teachers selected from 20 girl high schools, and the training was followed by 60 awareness sessions (three sessions per each school) conducted by the trained teachers.
Since the beginning of 2018 Mercy Hands has been distributing CRIs (Core Relief Items) on IDPs living in camps in Baghdad, Anbar, and Salah Al Din. Starting January 2019, hygiene kit was added to the CRI. Proving to be very reliable and efficient, as of May 2019, UNHCR expanded its partnership with Mercy Hands to include three more governorates, Diyala, Babil, and Karbala. Currently, Mercy Hands is responsible for distributing UNHCR's hygiene kits in all Iraq, except Kurdistan Region.
Also in January 2019, Mercy Hands launched a 2-years project in Ninewa governorate in partnership with Malteser International. This project is about supporting economic development in Ninewa Plains through restoration of sustainable livelihoods. While it is a primarily a livelihood project, it has a WASH component which involves digging and constructing water wells in Ninewa Plains.
Next month another landmark in Mercy Hands' WASH experience will be reached when we launch the (so far) largest WASH project. The project aims to improve sustainable improvement of access to clean drinking water for residents of the liberated areas in north Ninewa governorate. The project is funded by the German Foreign Office and it is implemented in partnership with HELP.