Lao government certifies 7 Total Sanitation Villages in Savannakhet


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In May 2015, Khamsay Vilaivong, from the Savannakhet Province Governor's Office, joined representatives of national, province and district government offices in Khokhuaxang Village, Xonnabouli District to officially declare and certify that seven villages have achieved Total Sanitation Village status, as Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages and Model Health Villages. In addition, one of them has achieved Development Village status, a target ranking by the Lao government with 19 criteria, one of which is ODF certification.

In 2004, only 20% of the 1,061 households in these villages had access to improved sanitation. The other 80% of the households continued to do what their parents and grandparents had been doing for generations: when it was time to go, they ducked behind the nearest bush or tree. All that changed after a new hygiene promotion programme using Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) came to town. Now 100% of people in these areas use improved toilets in their villages, and these were supported by the people themselves!

The CLTS approach has been introduced in Savannakhet Province by the local and central government of Lao PDR, with support from SNV and international donors. Lao PDR is one of five countries where SNV has rolled out the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All programme, which has been running in three districts, namely Atsaphon, Phin and Xonnabouri. The programme seeks to assist stakeholders to use CLTS in rural communities to first demonstrate the impact of open defecation, and then empower locals to take action. The programme has organisational and technical support from SNV, with financial support from the Government of the Netherlands.

Building on the existing system of the Lao government, the Total Sanitation Village tools and criteria have been developed and endorsed by the Department of Public Health in Savannakhet Province. The criteria are closely aligned with the ‘Model Healthy Village’ criteria:

  • 95% to 100% of households have access to and regularly use improved sanitation (defined as on-site sanitation facility for human excreta disposal with no animal and/or insect contact with human excreta and not contaminating ground water)
  • 100% of households have improved household water storage
  • Household members drink improved drinking water
  • Households have garbage and/or bin for garbage disposal
  • Households have wastewater drainage
  • Households have moved livestock away from house, and
  • Household have fences (if space is available)

Although seven villages have now been declared as ‘Total Sanitation Villages’, this status can be cancelled if faeces is found around the village during periodic monitoring (which occurs every three months) to ensure that people won’t return to open defecation practices.