Five villages in Arua District in West Nile have successfully attained open defecation free status only four months after the start of the Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All Results Programme.
Speaking at the ceremony to declare the five villages open defecation free, DFID Uganda Head of Office Daniel Graymore, who was launching the UK Government-funded programme in Arua, applauded the village health teams and the communities for owning the programme and championing efforts to ensure their villages are open defecation free. “What I like about this programme is that SNV and its partners have not come with already thought out solutions, instead the communities are devising their own solutions and using their resources to construct latrines without any financial assistance from the programme. I believe in the long run this will be more sustainable because people are driving the change,” he added.
Margret Chandiru is a 36 year old village health team sanitation champion in Aliamu village, Nyio sub-county in Arua District. She has been working as a village health team member for the last 10 years, an assignment which she and the rest of the village health team carry out on a voluntary basis. When asked what motivates her to set aside two days weekly to traverse the village sensitising her community about the need to construct pit latrines and handwashing facilities, this is what she had to say; “I feel good when my people are healthy and having good sanitary facilities.” Walking around Margret’s incredibly neat homestead, it is difficult to imagine that she once didn’t have a latrine in her homestead. But the single guardian to four children, has a different story to tell. Before I constructed my latrine, I used my neighbour’s latrine. This was difficult especially during the rainy season since the latrine was a long distance away. My children finding it difficult to go to the neighbour’s latrine would defecate in the bushes near our home. This practice brought sickness to our home. I knew then that it was time to construct my own latrine. Today Margret has a model homestead with a drying rack for plates, a tippy tap for handwashing and an acceptable pit latrine. For Margret this is a change she wants to see in her entire village and in the surrounding villages.
According to the World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme study of 2012, Uganda loses US$177 million annually due to poor sanitation. Approximately 23,000 Ugandans, 19,700 of whom are children under five die each year from diarrhoea. 90% of these deaths are directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
2.3 million People in the 15 SSH4A programme districts have no access to a latrine, with Arua District having 37% latrine coverage according to the SSH4A Results Programme baseline data of 2014. The programme aims to create access to sanitation for 800,000 people in the targeted districts. The SSH4A Result Programme uses the sanitation ladder, with level 0 presenting households without toilets (16 % in the baseline) and level 4 being a toilet which is environmentally safe (i.e. rats cannot reach faeces, flies cannot traverse in and out of the pit and the latrine is unable to influence groundwater and surface water sources). As at December 2014, 14,100 households had built a latrine, improving the lives of 70,500 people within a span of four months (September – December) of programme operation.
While creating access to basic latrines is one step, the SNV consumer insight study demonstrated that quality of latrines is equally important for creating sustainability. In addition to creating first-time access to latrines for 14,100 households, the project also enabled 27,700 households to improve their existing latrine or build a quality latrine from scratch.
For the leadership of Arua, sanitation is a war that has to be fought and won. “Sanitation is another war we have to fight. It is more serious than any war because it involves attitude change and if we don’t change our attitude and stop defecating in the open, we will not have healthy people to participate in Agriculture which is the backbone of our country,” Monica Edemachu, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Arua District.
The Resident District Commissioner Arua District Mr. Peter Debele in his remarks also made a commitment to give part of his weekly radio talk time to the health team so that messages on sanitation and hygiene can be escalated to the communities.
In the words of the DFID Head of Office, Daniel Graymore, good hygiene is good health and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that no human being is ignorantly ‘eating faeces’ due to bad sanitation and hygiene practices.
Poem by Village Health Team Nyio Parish, Oluko Sub-County Arua District
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene
The knowledge we have got about personal, household and hygiene is everywhere
Safe water, latrines, rubbish pits, drying racks, bathing shelters should all be in the household
You should construct a latrine as taught in the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All Programme
You should wash your hands with water and soap hanged near the latrine after visiting the latrine
Don’t defecate outside, No open defecation!
Ignorance has brought diseases, poverty and death to us all
This knowledge is to fight various diseases
Let us own this, put it to practice to bring change in our lives sustainably
This is to fight disease; for me, us, you in Nyio, Oluko, Ayivu, Arua and Uganda as a whole