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Barriers and Enabling Factors for Central and Household Level Water Treatment in a Refugee Setting: A Mixed-Method Study among Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Water chlorination is widely used in emergency responses to reduce diarrheal diseases, although communities with no prior exposure to chlorinated drinking water can have low acceptability. To better inform water treatment interventions, the study explored acceptability, barriers, and motivating-factors of a piped water chlorination program, and household level chlorine-tablet distribution, in place for four months in Rohingya refugee camps, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. We collected data from June to August 2018 from four purposively selected refugee camps using structured observation, key-informant-interviews, transect-walks, groupdiscussions, focus-group discussions, and in-depth-interviews with males, females, adolescent girls, and community leaders. Smell and taste of chlorinated water were commonly reported barriers among the population that had previously consumed groundwater. Poor quality source-water and suboptimal resultant treated-water, and long-queues for water collection were common complaints. Chlorine-tablet users reported inadequate and interrupted tablet supply, and inconsistent information delivered by different organisations caused confusion. Respondents reported fear of adverse-effects of "chemicals/medicine" used to treat water, especially fear of religious conversion. Water treatment options were reported as easy-to-use, and perceived health-benefits were motivating-factors. In vulnerable refugee communities, community and religious-leaders can formulate and deliver messages to address water taste and smell, instil trust, allay fears, and address rumours/misinformation to maximise early uptake.

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