Scouts in Malawi help refugee girls cope with pandemic risks
Dzaleka Refugee Camp, located in Malawi, is home to nearly 50,000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like many refugee camps, Dzaleka is overpopulated which not only puts a strain on the available resources, but poses a big challenge for residents to stay safe and healthy during the spread of COVID-19.
Many of the refugees residing in Dzaleka suffered additional economic hardships and loss of employment and the closure of schools put young girls and boys at greater risk.
Building on their existing Scouting activities in Dzaleka Camp, Rover Scouts in Malawi carried out a project to directly help refugee girls by supporting their health, hygiene and psychosocial wellbeing. They named their project “Elevating refugee girls during COVID-19”, as it consisted of the distribution of female sanitary items and hygiene products, provision of psychosocial support, and awareness around COVID-19.
Through the project, Scouts noticed that women and girls tend to overlook their personal hygiene and wellbeing due to cultural stigmas and worked with them on providing feminine hygiene awareness and products to help alleviate some of their pressures.
“We’re grateful for the services that Scouts provided. COVID-19 really affected us youth and girls in particular. Since schools closed we faced many issues that also include gender-based violence,” said one of the girls benefitting from the support that Scouts have been providing, who has joined Scouting as well.
According to the UN Women, data and reports show that since the outbreak of COVID-19, all types of violence against women and girls has intensified, and refugee camps are no exception. Scouts in Dzaleka have led awareness sessions on reporting cases in the camp, and collaborated with the camp’s main radio station to disseminate information on COVID-19 and gender-based violence and abuse.
Through the project, Scouts were able to reach 45 girls in the distribution of sanitary pads, soap and PPEs, and reached many more through awareness and information sessions.
For the future of “Elevating refugee girls during COVID-19” project, Scouts are planning to lead mentoring sessions for young refugee women and girls in the camp and expand the project to reach even more people.
In Dzaleka camp, over 200 young refugees joined Scouting which was started by Scout Leaders living there. Due to the limited space in the crowded camp schools, access to education is limited and many refugees resort to Scouting as their only organized educational activity.
Scouting is increasing its efforts to reach more communities who have been displaced to enable them to pursue sustainable livelihoods, and to ensure that every young person is given the opportunity to thrive. World Scouting and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have renewed their global partnership last year to provide more educational opportunities for young people in marginalised communities.
This project was supported by World Scouting’s partnership with Alwaleed Philanthropies, under the Scouts for SDGs initiative, where Scouts are committed to making the largest youth contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.