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Students ease plight of women in refugee camp

​​​​​​​An Edinburgh student is playing a vital role in improving the quality of women’s lives in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Third year architecture student Imogen McAndrew is helping to transform sanitary conditions for women based at Cox’s Bazar camp in Bangladesh.

Imogen visited the mega camp for Rohingya refugees last summer and worked with Oxfam volunteers and another student to assess the severely overcrowded settlement’s toilet facilities.

The students reported back to Oxfam and other charities to suggest long and short-term design solutions to make the conditions safer and more hygienic.

First-hand experience

Imogen and fellow student Freya Emmerson, from Newcastle University, visited three out of the 25 camps in Cox’s Bazar to assess each camp’s individual needs.

The layout and terrain of each camp differs, which has a big impact on the sanitary conditions. Some have drainage problems, while others have issues around privacy.

Imogen interviewed women and girls living in the camps between the ages of 7 and 70. She heard about the difficulties they face and the changes they might like to see.

Practical solutions

Through sketching and model-making, the two students and refugees were able to discuss their ideas and develop a plan.

The students proposed a new method for drainage and sewage collection that would avoid flooding and address the lack of space in the camp.

Ammonia from urine will also be used to grow plants in the plots next to the toilets, providing a small amount of much-needed fresh produce.  

Cultural improvements

Imogen and Freya also address cultural concerns, as most of the women living there are Muslim and have specific rituals relating to washing.

The students suggested designs that offer women and girls privacy after washing.

They also proposed simple solutions such as hooks to let rags and sheets dry and suggested altering the orientation of latrines to ensure they do not face Mecca.

Clean and safe toilet facilities are a crucial part of life and I am so pleased to have been able to work with Oxfam on this important project. I hope our suggested designs will encourage conversations around these topics and result in changes.

Imogen McAndrewArchitecture student, Edinburgh College of Art

Refugee crisis

The plight of the Rohingya people is said to be the world's fastest growing refugee crisis.

Refugees have fled their homes to escape conflict between the Myanmar military and the Rohingya people.

In September 2017 reports say that at least 6,700 Rohingya people were killed in the conflict.

Related links

Edinburgh College of Art

Study Architecture

Oxfam