Stay safe to Return safe

At a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq, residents drew attention to safety hazards through varied communications channels they had at their disposal. Their comments and concerns spawned an IOM safety awareness campaign and other measures aimed at improving safety and saving lives.

The two Almasi* sisters watched as their parents unpacked a box of items they received upon arrival at a camp for displaced people near Mosul in northern Iraq. Among the items were two stickers: one with an image of a flame and one of drops of water. Their mother asked the girls to put the sticker of water droplets on their water container and the other on their kerosene can so that the two clear liquids would not get mixed up.

After the sisters completed that task, their mother showed them papers from the box with illustrated instructions for preventing and extinguishing fires in and around the tent that would now serve as their home.

These safety materials are now a standard part of nonfood item kits in the region. They were developed based on extensive feedback from camp residents who alerted camp coordination and management staff directly, as well as through an inter-agency hotline set up to provide information about humanitarian services.

The stickers for kerosene and water jerry cans were designed in response to complaints that children had fallen ill from mixing up the two containers. The fire safety materials were in response to a growing number of preventable fires inside the crowded camps.

The IOM team also used the feedback to work with camp residents and staff to launch an awareness campaign called Stay Safe to Return Safe. As part of the campaign, two fire safety videos were produced and broadcast on television and social media channels. USB drives with the video files were shared with partner agencies to use at other sites. IOM Iraq also held safety awareness sessions at displacement sites.

The materials have been widely used by IOM and partner agencies and requests for them are on the rise as more camps are set up in the region. Most importantly, the camps have become measurably safer, with fire incidents reducing significantly since the campaign began.

"When people are displaced, they need access to safety information that might save their lives," notes an IOM project officer. "In this case, feedback led to important safety issues being highlighted and addressed."