Water and Sanitation : Villages learning the use of toilets
Growing up, I was taught how to keep myself clean and healthy. I grew up knowing that whenever I need “to go to the bathroom”, I simply head to a small room called a toilet. And that is normal, because that is what everybody else does. But no. Can you believe there are parts of the world where nobody knows what a toilet, batroom or latrine is? And for people living in those parts, everything you do in there is just done anywhere outside their house.
We are in the region of Man, in the west of Ivory Coast. This morning, with UNICEF as a partner, I am visiting 3 villages where the project PHAM, funded by the European Union, has been implemented between 2013-2017. This project consists of sustainably improving access to water and sanitation for the population.
Entering the villages, I am amazed by how clean they look. But I am told that it wasn’t this way some years back. Latrines were mysteries in these villages. People defecated outside in the open environment, and for kids, anywhere from the backyard to the sides of the road. This of course was the main cause of severe diarrhoea cases that were present, since kitchens here are also outside, and meals are most of the time also taken outside. Thus, flies and other insects could simply buzz from faecal matter all around to the plates of food.
“When the programme came, we didn’t understand why they were telling us to change our way of living. We knew nothing about latrines, as we grew up never seeing any. And one day, in a sanitation campaign, they brought a plate of Acheke and chicken (local food) and they put a faecal matter some meters away from the food. Some time after, flies started to buzz around the food and the faeces. And they asked us who wanted to taste the food. We all said no. That is when our facilitator explained to us that it is what we do everyday. And from that very time, we all knew we had to build our own latrines immediately,” The village’s chief says.
The speciality of this project is that it has never built a single latrine to a household. Instead, with the help from ASAPSU (Association de Soutien à l’Autopromotion Saitaire Urbaine), the sensitization agent, the villagers were taught and encouraged to build latrines on their own: self-development. There are two types of latrines and depending on the financial capability of the family, they choose which one to build.
This project has been able to get 92,448 households to build functional latrines for themselves, and 823 Villages have now acquired the “Outdoor defecation free” status, a status that a village is certified for and a post is put right at the entrance of the village.
“After we started to use latrines, diarrhoea cases have significantly decreased. Plus, our village is really clean. We realized that when we go to other villages where this programme wasn’t adopted, where one is welcomed by a bad smell all around and of course dirt everywhere. But we try to let them know benefits of having a latrine, even though it is not easy to change one’s mind in a single day”