SNV appears on the front page of Vientiane Times, Lao PDR's first national English language newspaper, signifying growing political and public commitment to improve sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Below, full article first published in Vientiane Times on 19 April 2021.
The ceremony to declare 41 villages Open Defecation Free marks a milestone in the collaboration between the Government and SNV to implement the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) – Beyond the Finish Line project. The project is funded by the Australian Government with a budget of AUD 4.2 million for the period of 2018-2022 and aims to improve the health, gender equality and social inclusion of 200,000 people living in Atsaphone, Champhone and Phalanxay districts by achieving Open Defecation Free status by 2022.
Within one year from the MoU signed (in October 2019), the proportion of the households without a toilet in the three districts has reduced by 22%. More remarkably the proportion of the households in poorer wealth quintile without a toilet has reduced from 83% to 45%.
Ms. Ringthong Sengthavan, Vice Provincial Governor of Savannakhet, emphasized achieving ODF status is a significant first step, however village leaders should continuously monitor and improve the sanitation and hygiene situation for better health impacts; and it is critical to prioritise large scale behaviour change campaigns.
Dr. Panom Phongmany, Deputy Director of Department of Health and Hygiene Promotion (Ministry of Health), confirmed the Government has signed a pledge to achieve nationwide ODF status by 2025. He congratulated Savannakhet for having successfully mobilised all 15 districts to sign commitment to achieve provincewide ODF by 2024.
Dr. Sengdao Sydalay, Director of Provincial Health Department, stressed the importance of Government’s leadership and ownership for long term sustainability. Two years since the project started, the provincial and district teams are well capacitated to lead the planning and implementation of the sanitation and hygiene activities, with a strong focus on gender equality and social inclusion; and active participation of the private sector.
Jane Chandler, Deputy Head of Mission of the Australian Embassy, highlighted “a toilet is not just a toilet, it is a life saver and dignity protector for women and girls”.
Dr. Allert van den Ham, SNV Country Director, thanked the authorities for their strong leadership in the roll-out of the project. He acknowledged the hard work of the 41 villages who are the front runners in the drive of the Lao PDR government to achieve the ODF status in 2024 at the provincial level.
Although the initial successes are outstanding, the journey to universal sanitation coverage is long and will require strong collaboration between Government, community and private sector to reach everyone, especially the most likely vulnerable and marginalized groups, who are at risk of being left behind.