Somali doctors mobilise to clean up unhealthy trash dumps in Guriel IDP camps

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Dr Ahmed Hassan Mohamoud and some of his medical colleagues were on a free health check-up visit to five internally displaced camps in Guriel, in central Somalia’s Galgadud region, when they registered several patients with skin infections that they suspected stemmed from the trash dumped in the camps.

The group of 30 youngesters raised $450 among them to rent a garbage collection vehicle and started a cleaning initiative.

Ahmed and his colleagues have been cleaning the camps on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays over the past two weeks.

“These camps are overcrowded with vulnerable people and there are only two toilets in most camps. The residents dump their trash near their flimsy huts, and this causes diseases for the residents,” Dr Ahmed told Radio Ergo.

One of the IDP camps has three toilets, the most in any of the camps, but these are shared among many people. The doctors noted that the shared toilets, which are adjacent to the makeshift houses where families live, filled up quickly and added another disease risk.

Ahmed said he and his team with the help of the camp residents swept the scattered garbage into one area for easy collection. They hope to extend their cleaning initiative to all the IDP camps in Guriel district.

“We are doing the cleaning from our pockets. There is no external help we are getting from anyone. We came together as youth voluntarily and decided to help our people with what we can,” he said.

Maryan Jaylani Hassan, a resident of Daryeel camp in Guriel, told Radio Ergo this was the first time she had seen the garbage cleaned up in the five years she has lived there.

“The garbage was everywhere in the camp. These youth have cleaned our camp for us! Money is required to collect the trash, which we don’t have, but we are glad now we received help and we thank them,” she said.

Maryan, a mother of three, provides for her family with the little she earns from washing clothes for clients. She leaves her children with her neighbour whilst at work. She and her neighbour take turns on alternate days to go out to work and organise the childcare.

Maryan said the trash has affected her young children, who often fall sick.

“These are young children who don’t know that they can catch diseases from the trash. They will put something they picked from the garbage in their mouth. Sometimes I come back home and find my child with a cut on their leg. We had a lot of problems with the piling up trash,” she said.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdullahi, the chairman of Barwaqo IDP camp, said the collection of the trash has freed up land where they are planning to relocate some of the residents from congested shelters.

“The youth group has collected the trash with their own money. Before this they were providing us medicine for free. Local residents also dumped here, it’s not just the families in this camp who dump their trash here, so what the youth removed was a lot,” he said.