Access to proper sanitation and hygiene facilities is a basic right of all people, including people with disabilities. The denial of this right can have serious implications on their wellbeing. The current pandemic has just reminded us – once again – of the need to double sanitation and hygiene efforts to reach all.
Through the introduction of the Government of Bhutan’s Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP) and with support from SNV, the Public Health Engineering Division (PHED), and the Australian Government, the rural sanitation and hygiene landscape has drastically been improving. People do not only understand the importance of sanitation and hygiene. They also have ideas in how to sustain proper sanitation and hygiene practice on their own.
But for destitute families and people with disabilities, constructing an accessible pour flush toilet can cost a fortune. In Thomgang chiwog, Khebisa gewog (group of villages) in Dagana district, health personnel of the Akhochen Primary Health Care (PHC) played a vital role to help Mr Thinley, a person with disability, and his family to build a pour flush toilet.
Mr Thinley during an exchange with Ms Khandu Wangmo
Ms Khandu Wangmo, health assistant partner of SNV
Mr Thinley always found it difficult to use his toilet. Because it was not possible to seek for the financial and in-kind (labour) support of family and neighbours, he could not construct an accessible pour flush toilet. Hence, the staff of Akhochen PHC, in collaboration with the Community Base Scouting (CBS) – a member of Phekoma Primary School – and the gewog, came together to lend support.
With support from the Gewog Administration and CBS members, including a few village volunteers, Mr Thinley’s resource challenges were overcome. With their help, he gained the sanitation facility that he has long aspired for. During our first visit to his household, we were greeted by a smile of hope and excitement. Alas, he will now be able to realise his dream of sanitation improvements, for himself and his wife. After facility completion, his smile turned into joy as his disability no longer prevented him from using the toilet. It was a satisfactory moment for himself and his family, and for us – for being able to help in a small way. Our joint efforts, indeed, will make a big difference in his life.
Achieving proper sanitation and hygiene is not limited to the construction of a pour flush toilet. It is also about following the right process of using the facility hygienically and maintaining it for the long term. So, to ensure continued sanitation and hygiene practice, we developed a monitoring schedule for our household visits. During these visits, we impart new knowledge and ideas in how to maintain and sustain proper sanitation and hygiene practice.
In conclusion, while emphasising that access to proper sanitation and hygiene facilities is a basic right of all people, including people with disabilities, we also have a responsibility to improve the lives of people around us. We have a responsibility to help those who are not able to afford sanitation facilities, and to continuously impart the know-how in sustaining sanitation and hygiene improvements for everyone to lead a healthy life.
Contributor: Khandu Wangmo, Health Assistant, Akhochen PHC
Photos: Mountainous and picturesque Dagana (banner photo by SNV/Aidan Dockery) | Photos in narrative submitted by author, Khandu Wango
 In Dagana Central, sanitation and hygiene interventions are supported by SNV, with financing from the Australian Government’s Water for Women Fund.
 This story is part of an SNV in Bhutan SSH4A blog series by local government, health care, and community partners. In this series, partners reflect on the success of Community Development Health (CDH) workshops in encouraging villages, sub-districts, and whole districts to prioritise their sanitation and hygiene conditions.
For more information, contact: Thinley Dem, Behavioural Change Communications Advisor, SNV in Bhutan