Grace Gakuru is a single mother of two who lives in the Mpanga village of Rwanda. For many years, Grace’s children were constantly sick. Exposure to poor sanitation and hygiene were the main culprits, this despite her hard efforts to maintain a safe and clean home. Today, Grace’s family’s health has improved dramatically. Through the Isuku Iwacu project, the Gakuru family is now a proud owner of an improved latrine.
Adequate sanitation, together with good hygiene is fundamental to good health. Poor hygiene and lack of sanitation conditions contribute to diarrheal diseases, leading to morbidity and mortality particularly in young children (World Health Organisation, 2017).
Poor sanitation and exposure to health risks
Prior to receiving a new latrine, Grace’s old latrine presented a serious health hazard, particularly to her young children. Before Isuku Iwacu, the family used a shallow pit with wooden logs as a latrine. It was difficult to clean, and excrement would stick on the logs. Balancing one’s weight on the wooden logs, and aiming to relieve through the narrow opening were done with great difficulty; especially for Grace’s 3-year old daughter. Urine and faeces were constantly left on top of the wooden logs.
The permanent state of damp logs attracted flies, cockroaches and other potential carriers of disease into the home. The unhygienic state of the latrine created a breeding ground for a constant swarm of flies hovering around the compound, the kitchen, and areas where food was prepared or consumed. The absence of a handwashing facility further jeopardised the family’s health, heightening the possibility for exposure to illness.
“My children were always complaining of diarrhoea and stomach pains, so I would make regular trips to the Health Centre. I would spend as much as four hours walking to and from the local Health Centre where there would be long queues, and I would end up wasting an entire day” Grace explained.
Good-bye to diarrhoea
In 2017, as part of the national water and sanitation campaign, Isuku Iwacu supported 56 vulnerable households (or 218 people) in the Mpanga village with a latrine and a handwashing facility. The campaign collaborated with the government, and Isuku Iwacu was among the projects that partnered with Ministry of Infrastructure, and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) in the 2017 WATSAN campaign. This government-led initiative combines the efforts of all WASH stakeholders including development partners, to mobilise communities in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6: Availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Trainings were also part of the project’s package where the households and local government authorities were sensitised on the benefits of improved latrines for better health outcomes, how to maintain the latrines, and how both men and women can be involved in maintaining proper sanitation at home.
Latrines such as those once owned by the Gakuru family were replaced with a new design to safeguard the sanitation and health of users. The new latrines constructed have a concrete slab that is easy to clean with soap and water, and a wooden pit cover (with no gaps) to keep flies away and to contain bad odours. Unlike Grace’s earlier latrine, the new latrine, with mudbricks wall and iron sheet roofing, was also built for privacy and durability.
Today, Grace’s family is healthy:
“I have now said good-bye to diarrhoea. My children no longer fall ill, thanks to the new latrine. Since we started using it, I have not been to the Health Centre. It is a great relief for me because my children are healthy and unafraid to use the toilet,” said Grace.
Grace: an active partner of change
As a partner of change in charge of her own development Grace partially covered the construction costs of her new latrine by providing 200 mud bricks. And, with the masons, she assisted in fetching water to mix with the cement.
Isuku Iwacu is working in eight districts in Rwanda to improve access to household sanitation facilities and services by developing a private sector led sanitation market. In close collaboration with local district authorities we have to date constructed more than 2,000 improved latrines for vulnerable households across the eight target districts.