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Dome slabs innovation helps keep disease at bay in Tanzanian refugee camps

By Mary Mndeme and Bill Marwa

Over 177,000 people have fled from Burundi to Tanzania since the country descended into violence over a year ago. At least a third of those now live in the Nyarugusu camp, the third largest refugee resettlement located in Kigoma region, North western Tanzania.

Aid agencies have made significant efforts to decongest Nyarugusu camp by relocating people to other camps such as Nduta and Mtendeli. The shelters are being changed from tents to more friendly transition houses constructed with mud bricks and roofed with iron sheets.

Oxfam as the lead agency in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene promotion (WASH) in both Nyarugusu and Nduta refugee camps is also moving ahead to replace the temporary family shared pit latrines and bathing shelters with semi-permanent sanitation facilities that target individual households.

Oxfam engineer overseeing the dome  slab production at Nyarugusu Refugee camp. Photo: Oxfam/ Mary Mndeme
Oxfam engineer overseeing the dome slab production at Nyarugusu Refugee camp. Photo: Oxfam/Mary Mndeme

Over 100 refugee masons have been trained to produce dome-shaped slabs which are placed on top of pit latrines whilst ensuring safety, privacy and better hygiene management. The project also provides capacity building and cash for work opportunities to the refugee population.

Sifa Sharlote (26) a Burundian, mother of one is a beneficiary of the cash for work in the dome-slab production site. She said; “This project reminds me of Burundi where I graduated and worked in the engineering field.”

Sifa Sharlote (26) a Burundian, mother of one is a beneficiary of the cash for work in the dome-slab production site. She said; “This project reminds me of Burundi where I graduated and worked in the engineering field.” Photo: Oxfam/Mary Mndeme
Sifa Sharlote (26) a Burundian, mother of one is a beneficiary of the cash for work in the dome-slab production site. She said; “This project reminds me of Burundi where I graduated and worked in the engineering field.” Photo: Oxfam/Mary Mndeme

The dome-shaped slab latrines will be used by individual families for both latrine and bathing space replacing the existing family shared pit latrines, where one latrine was used by up to four households.

This innovation is considered to be a more sustainable strategy in meeting the international sphere standards since the slab can be re-used on another pit once the latrine is full. The design is also environmental friendly as it reduces the need for cutting trees to get logs which were initially used to provide support to the slab on the pit.

The technology has been endorsed by aid agencies and the Government of Tanzania. Oxfam is building capacity of other agencies on the production of slabs, pit digging and superstructure construction in efforts to scale-up the production in all camps and ensure that quality standards are met.

Briefing Mohamed Mechmache, Rapid Response Coordinator for Central and West Africa from ECHO in the dome slab production site in Nduta refugee camp where Oxfam is providing water, sanitation and hygiene promotion to the refugee population. Photo: Oxfam/Mary Mndeme
Briefing Mohamed Mechmache, Rapid Response Coordinator for Central and West Africa from ECHO in the dome slab production site in Nduta refugee camp where Oxfam is providing water, sanitation and hygiene promotion to the refugee population. Photo: Oxfam/Mary Mndeme

This project is funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Department for International Development (DFID), DFATD and the UNHCR.

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Written by Bill Marwa

Bill is a digital media coordinator with Oxfam in Tanzania, based in Dar es salaam. He also tweets @billmarwa.

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