One toilet, with no drainage system, for 150 people: Life at Rohingya Camp 3 in Hyd

While the men can sometimes use the toilet in the mosque across, women and children have to wait for their turn to use this single toilet.
One toilet, with no drainage system, for 150 people: Life at Rohingya Camp 3 in Hyd
One toilet, with no drainage system, for 150 people: Life at Rohingya Camp 3 in Hyd

Life in Hyderabad’s Baba Nagar near Balapur, Camp Number 3, a Rohingya refugee settlement, begins early – at 3 am. No matter how little they have slept the previous night, most people are up and about before the day breaks, only to avoid the serpentine queue that forms outside the single toilet in the entire camp.

There are actually two toilets in the camp which houses around 150 people; however, one of them broke three years ago and it hasn’t been fixed since. The single working toilet in the camp comes with its own set of problems – it doesn’t have a proper drainage system.

Hence, it has to be cleaned out every single month, and this costs Rs 2,000.

“Every household has to pay Rs 100 towards this,” says Noorjaan, a resident of Camp Number 3.

The defunct toilet

Hyderabad has around 20 Rohingya Muslim camps, which house close to 1,500 people. This particular camp has 45 families, and the population includes 50 children. Most residents of the camp are from Fakira Bazar village Myanmar, who escaped the systemic persecution carried out by the Army. And they have lived in Hyderabad for 8 long years.

There are no open fields nearby either for people to defecate. After several meetings, one of the residents of the camp shyly revealed to this reporter that sometimes the men use the toilet in the Ayesha Masjid, in Balapur, located across the camp.

However, if the muezzin catches them using the toilet in the mosque, all hell breaks loose. “We don’t go to the masjid when the muezzin is there. But, he sometimes locks the toilet when he’s not there,” he says.

And while the men have this option, the women can only wait for their turn to use the single toilet. Children, on the hand, often defecate outside their shanties, which the parents then have to clean.

But no matter how much they clean it, residents cannot avoid the swarming houseflies, raising fears of the spread of diseases such as typhoid and malaria. Moreover, the people who live here are so poor, they cannot afford a doctor if one them falls ill. All they can do is pray that no disease affects them.

They have found one ingenious way to combat the flies – sprinkle salt on floor. But this doesn’t stop the flies.

Salma, sprinkles a handful of salt to ward off the flies

Fear of the approaching monsoon too looms large – the shanties are extremely fragile, and one single strong gust of wind can blow them down. The roofs are usually made of cardboard, with a tarpaulin placed on top, bound together with nylon ropes.

Despite the living conditions being so awful here, and the fact there is no drinking water, residents have to cough up Rs 800 a month to their landlords.

“Where else can we go? The rents in other neighbourhoods range between Rs 1200 and Rs 1500. We can’t afford that. We work only for 10 days in a month, where we earn Rs 500-550 per day. How can we ever stay in houses like that?” asks Shamshud, a resident.

Things used to be even worse before, Shamsud’s nephew Jafer Alam points out. “Earlier there was no water in the camp at all. But a Muslim man from nearby dug a borewell for us,” he says.

Back in Fakira Bazar, Shamsud was a farmer with 10 acres of land, where he grew pulses, groundnuts, vegetables and kept livestock.

“There was no need for us to buy anything from outside. We grew everything we needed and sold the excess,” he says.

Today, he struggles to feed his family three meals a day and ensure they can use the toilet safely.

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