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Kaski becomes first district to be free of open defecation in Nepal

© UNICEF Nepal /2011/ R Gurung
soap before entering the Pokhara City Hall venue for the ODF celebrations. 5000 people washed their hands this way before attending the ceremony

By- Anna Maria Guiney

Pokhara, Western Nepal, 18 July 2011: It was a warm day in Pokhara, the headquarters of Kaski district in the lap of the Annapurna Himalaya. Around the  Pokhara City Hall, there was a huge colourful buzz of people, congregating from different corners of the city to celebrate Kaski becoming the first district to be open defecation free, ODF. 

It was an event bursting with energy and colour. Green banners with ' Kaski the First Open Defecation Free district in Nepal- Our Pride' slogan were seen everywhere.  Below them, female health workers in their colourful saris were facilitating over 5000 people including school children and farmers, government officials and activists to wash their hands with soap before entering the City Hall.

The Prime Minister of Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, raised a green flag, released a big green balloon with emblazoned with Kaski's map and the ODF slogan amidst  tremendous applause from the people of Kaski and declared the district free of open defecation.

“This is a historical day for Kaski and an indication of a movement towards an Open Defecation Free Nepal,” said the Prime Minister. “Kaski is now a leading example for the country and other districts with very poor sanitation.”

This movement was the culmination of the district’s 4-year sanitation drive, started in 2006 following the initiation of the School Led Total Sanitation programme, to make the district free of open defecation. The programme was led by the Regional Monitoring Office and the Machhapuchhre Development Organisation with support from UNICEF. With the active participation of local leaders, students and teachers, political parties, the private sector and the media with the mantra of pride, praise and dignity, the sanitation campaign spread from schools to the surrounding neighbourhoods and villages. The movement got a boost with incentives and rewards that promoted innovative awareness raising activities in the communities.

“A couple of main ingredients ensured the success of the campaign: local government's leadership, political support, social mobilization and public private partnerships,” explains Purushottam Acharya of UNICEF. “Most importantly, varied approaches and contributions from different levels of society ensured that every household was reached, and that "ODF" became everybody’s concern.”

Addressing the large gathering as people sang and danced to celebrate their collective success in making their district clean and healthy, Guru Prasad Subedi, Local Development Officer of Kaski, commended the people for their historic achievement.

© UNICEF Nepal/ 2011/ R Gurung
Mr. Will Parks, Acting Representative, UNICEF, receving a 'Token of Appreciation' from the organisers in recognition of UNICEF's contribution in the ODF campaign, as the prime minister watches

"It is because of you that we have been able to achieve this remarkable feat," he said.  "What you have contributed for this campaign, in terms of hours of labour, or construction material is more than seventy-fold of the support provided by the rest of the partners.  The laurels for cleaning up Kaski truly rests on your shoulders."

Speaking on the occasion, Will Parks, Acting UNICEF Representative, commended the people of Kaski for their lead on sanitation and hygiene initiatives.  "You have become a trailblazer," he said. "You have set an example for other districts to follow in your footsteps, to show the same enthusiasm and commitment in making their districts clean, healthy, and attractive," said. "Your campaign reflects the positive drive towards human dignity, pride and identity especially for women and girls who should not have to risk their safety and security for lack of a toilet.”

Shree Laxmi Primary School and Shree Maheshwari Lower Secondary Schools of Pumdi villages in Kaski were the first to declare their catchment areas open defecation free in 2007. A total of 18,035 toilets were constructed under the leadership of Kaski’s District Development Committee during the campaign. In the central development region, Chitwan, Tanahun and Nawalparasi districts are now in the pipeline to be declared open defecation free in the near future.

Currently 43% of households in Nepal have access to sanitation. Poor sanitation and hygiene practices are considered the lead causes for the high prevalence of infectious diseases in the country. Diarrhoea is still the single second largest killer of children in Nepal. The country aims to have universal coverage for sanitation by 2017 and initiatives such as Kaski’s is a good model for success and replication in other districts in Nepal.

“Chitwan district is close on your heels, Kaski” said Will Parks. “People in the Mid and Far Western Regions in Nepal are aligning for action 'to make diarrhoea history,' and there has been an increase in the government's budget allocation to build toilets at the household and institutional level, especially toilets for girls in schools. All these are good indications that will help us inch closer to the goal of universal sanitation coverage by 2017."

 As the celebrations ended, the monsoon rains poured, offering cool respite to the thousands gathered at Pokhara City hall, who could go home proud of the fact that their district is the first open defecation free district in Nepal.

 

 

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