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Saving lives in Akula

When I first travelled to Akula camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, I was shocked at the conditions people were forced to live in. There were no toilets, so people were forced to go to the toilet in the open. The main water pump was broken and there were flies everywhere. For refugees who survived South Sudan’s terrible war and braved the trek to Ethiopia in search of safety, the camp should not only be a place they can live without fear from violence, but somewhere they can live in dignity.

Sharon Edington/Act for Peace Image Frame
Tragically, it wasn’t. Parents in Akula tried everything to keep their children clean and healthy, but until recently they had no way to get soap and the water in the local pond was contaminated.

Because of these terrible conditions, people were dying from Hepatitis E, an easily preventable disease. It made me angry and upset. We knew the solution was simple – clean water, soap and toilets - but making sure refugees had access to these things would not have been possible without the kind support of compassionate people just like you. Last year, you came together through the Christmas Bowl appeal and raised a record-breaking $2.6 million to help bring these life-saving items to refugees in great need. It was a true outpouring of love and compassion, and thanks to your kind support, the Akula camp is now officially clear of Hepatitis E.

The changes I saw were truly remarkable

In February, I returned to Akula to see the difference your gifts to the Christmas Bowl have made to the lives of refugees - and I was amazed at the transformation in the camp. You helped to fix the broken water pump, so families have better access to clean, safe drinking water. 84 emergency latrines with handwashing facilities have been built. Thankfully, no one is forced to go to the toilet outside anymore. And families have been given soap so they can wash their hands properly after using the bathroom. Importantly, your gifts have helped to train local hygiene promoters, who are refugees themselves.They will continue to teach others in their community how best to keep their families clean and healthy for years to come.

Many of the refugee families living in Akula fled from terrible conflict and violence, and sought safety so their children can grow up happy, healthy and strong. Thanks to you, and these simple but life-saving solutions, the camp is a cleaner, safer place to live. Now that Hepatitis E is no longer a threat, families in Akula can focus on other things, like sending their kids to school. Through the Christmas Bowl appeal, you’ve helped these vulnerable families regain their health and dignity, and keep the smiles on their children’s faces as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Thank you!

By Sharon Edington - Act for Peace's Africa Programs Coordinator

More ways to take action

You can help prevent children like Maala being born with chronic illnesses by helping pregnant women stay healthy and nourished in the first place.

Take the Act for Peace Ration Challenge and eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week (June 2017). Raise money to support refugees who have lost everything, and challenge perspectives – including your own.

Right now, thousands of innocent people are fleeing Syria every day to protect their families from bloodshed, violence and death. We need your support to provide emergency relief packs to the families fleeing in Syria.