Communities take charge to end open defecation
Katsina state, Nigeria, September 2011 - Seven-year-old Abdul is a leader among his peers in preventing open defecation (OD) in his community, Unguwar Barmo in Bakori Local Government Area (LGA), Katsina state, Nigeria. He understands the importance of using toilets and washing hands at critical intervals.
In Abdul’s community which comprises 93 households and 934 people, inhabitants were ‘triggered’ in late July, using an approach called Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). A team of CLTS practitioners had visited from the local water and sanitation department, an NGO (Service to Humanity) and Katsina State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency.
During the training, or ‘triggering process’ carried out for children, Abdul emerged as a natural leader and is now charged with the responsibility of passing on the children’s resolution against open defecation in their community.
When asked about the resolution on Unguwar Barmo, Abdul says, ‘We have to stop open defecation. It is disgusting!’
Prior to the ‘triggering’ intervention, open defecation was practiced indiscriminately within the community and human faeces could be found everywhere. Although there were toilets in some households, people preferred defecating in the open and were not aware of the benefits of using toilets.
Significant changes have happened since the intervention in July, as people now understand the importance of using toilets and washing hands after defecating.
Mallam Yahaya, a family breadwinner, father of 14 children and an active member of the community’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Committee, recounts the health benefits that his family and community have gained by ending defecation in the open.
‘Since 20 days none of my children have fallen sick. Prior to the CLTS intervention, every other day one of my children would fall sick, but now, that is not the case.’
Both adult and child members of the community are playing their part, and Unguwar Barmo is well poised to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status ahead of the agreed target date of 20th September 2011. Moreover, the community could set an example for neighbouring committees which can learn from the Unguwar Barmo experience.
Unguwar Barmo is one of the communities benefiting from the UK Aid supported ‘Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria’ or SHAWN project expected to serve nearly two million in four states with sustainable access to sanitation, water and hygiene over a five-year period covering 2010-2014.