Nepal

Big steps towards an open-defecation-free Nepal

In Nepal, districts are in a race to become open defecation free.  Download this video

 

By Mark Dummett

Let the festivities begin! As districts race each other to construct toilets and turn local attitudes against open defecation, Nepal inches closer and closer to its national goal of being open defecation free by 2017.

CHITPAL, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, 28 October 2013 – It’s party time, in Chitpal. School is out, and everyone is gathering.

But the people of Chitpal haven’t come to celebrate a festival – they’ve come together to celebrate a success.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Video
Children are both beneficiaries of the open defecation free programme and powerful agents of change. "They visit the households, and they promote sanitation and hygiene," says UNICEF's Namaste Shrestha.

Big declaration, big milestone

Chitpal is the latest area of Nepal to be declared open defecation free. The success is a source of huge pride.

It’s part of a national campaign to persuade people to use toilets and improve sanitation and cleanliness.

Community groups and schools are at the forefront of the campaign. Ceremonies like this one have taken place across the country, as districts race each other to be declared open defecation free.

“It’s just something beautiful, and it’s something emotional and social,” says UNICEF Representative in Nepal Hanaa Singer. “It is a movement that has caught the hearts and minds of the people of Nepal and something that I’m so proud that UNICEF is associated with,” she adds.

Schools in the lead

One of UNICEF’s main contributions has been to support schools so they can play a leading role in the campaign.

The goal is to improve the students’ own awareness of sanitation issues and encourage children to take key messages out to the wider community, where they can help change people’s behaviour.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Video
Chitpal is the latest area to be declared open defecation free. Nepal is inching closer and closer to its national goal of being declared open defecation free by 2017.

The teachers of Chitpal say they have already noticed the difference. Ram Kumar Karki says that the health of his pupils has improved; significantly fewer children suffer from diarrhoea.

Fifteen-year-old Dipish Thapaliya is from Chitwan, which was the second district to be declared open defecation free, in 2011. He is a member of his school’s student sanitation committee. He is involved in a drama group. The group tells the story of a boy bitten by a snake as he goes to relieve himself in a field.

Dipish has also told his family why it is so important to use a toilet. The difficulty with changing this particular practice is that families like his are poor, toilets cost money to build and maintain – and everyone is accustomed to defecating in the open.

But, with the strategy of involving schools, and the hard work of children like Dipish and the community, attitudes are now changing. Toilets are being constructed – and they are being used.

From local toilets to national plan

The campaign is now being replicated elsewhere.

UNICEF Nepal Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist Namaste Shrestha talks about how children continue to be both beneficiaries of the programme and powerful agents of change.

“They are promoting sanitation and hygiene at school...with their peers, and they are working at the community level,” he says. “As a group of children, they visit the households, and they promote sanitation and hygiene. So, they are working as change agents.”

While most of the work takes place at the field level, UNICEF is also supporting the government at the centre, helping to draw up a national sanitation plan.
In 2011, government members and politicians took an oath to carry out the plan and make Nepal open defecation free by 2017.

That big milestone is some way off, but already many lives have been improved.


 

 

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