“For many people, this might be simply a latrine. For us, women living here, it means the world.” (Thurayya, a resident of Khirbet ar Ratheem)
Sanitation is a basic need, without which health, hygiene, privacy, safety and dignity are undermined. But for many Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, access to sanitation is scarce.
Like members of other Area C communities, people living in Khirbet ar Ratheem (southern Hebron) are restricted in their ability to build or rehabilitate basic structures. As a result, they have limited access to the most essential services, such as shelter, water, sanitation and education. But their main concern, according to an assessment conducted in 2019, is limited access to sanitation.
Carried out by Action Against Hunger, the assessment showed that many community members used rudimentary or outdated latrines, if they were available at all. Women in particular reported that they often felt ashamed and embarrassed, when forced to go outside, especially in the winter, when the weather is cold, windy or rainy. Since the community is in an open and uninterrupted landscape, women and children needed to travel long distances to find suitable, private locations.
Thurayya, a mother of three girls and five boys, recalls: “The girls usually needed to go in pairs and walk far distances to have some privacy... when the girls had their periods, it was the hardest: what is supposed to be a simple practice, in fact needed time, planning and efforts.”
This situation changed in 2019. With funding received from the Humanitarian Fund for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt HF) Action Against Hunger and the Rural Center for Sustainable Development (RCSD) installed 20 mobile latrines near the homes of such families, including five in Khirbet ar Ratheem. Thurayya’s family was one of them. The latrines are designed to ensure maximum safety, privacy and dignity for their users.
Now, all of Thurayya’s family members have access to appropriate facilities, metres away from their home. As Thurayya testified: “the latrines have eliminated the embarrassment and risks... They are clean and nearby, and they maintain our privacy, so the need to go is no longer a nightmare.”
* Thurayya’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.