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Community leaders recognised for eliminating open defecation in their communities

© UNICEF/MOZA-01409/G.Pirozzi

Mozambique, 5 April 2010 – One hundred and fifty one communities in Tete, Manica and Sofala provinces were declared open defecation-free today during a ceremony in Changara district, Tete province. Hundreds of community leaders gathered for the occasion were recognised for their excellence in the promotion and consistent use of latrines under the community approach to total sanitation.

The award ceremony took place during the fourth annual meeting of the One Million Initiative, a partnership between the Government of Mozambique, the Government of the Netherlands and UNICEF aiming to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to over one million people in three provinces. The event was attended by the Minister of Public Works and Housing, the Minister of Health, the provincial governments of Tete, Manica and Sofala, and representatives of the Embassy of the Netherlands and UNICEF.

Over the past three years, the One Million Initiative has reached more than 600,000 community members in 19 districts with access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. As part of the initiative, the annual award ceremony recognises communities that have been declared open defecation-free – a crucial step towards improving sanitation and the adoption of healthy hygiene habits.

“This is a great achievement,” said UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala. “And I would like to call on all community leaders here to keep their communities open-defecation free to improve the health of the children and their families.”

The strategy is part of the community-led total sanitation approach, which supports communities to completely eliminate open defecation. Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become open defecation free. 

The approach focuses on the behavioural change needed to ensure real and sustainable improvements – investing in community mobilisation instead of hardware, and shifting the focus from toilet construction for individual households to the creation of ‘open defecation-free’ villages. By raising awareness that as long as even a minority continues to defecate in the open everyone is at risk of disease, the approach triggers the community’s desire for change, propels them into action and encourages innovation, mutual support and appropriate local solutions, leading to greater ownership and sustainability.

The One Million Initiative is a six-year programme which focuses on districts where diarrheal diseases and malaria continue to contribute to the high rates of morbidity and mortality in children. By the end of 2012, the programme aims to construct or rehabilitate about 2400 sources of water and build about 200 thousand latrines. The school component aims to reach about 400 primary schools, reaching some 140 000 children with access to safe water and adequate sanitation and healthy hygiene promotion.



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