Fati Sibdow and Abdullai Abubakari inspire communities to build their own Latrines
UNICEF has created a series of personal profiles of the men and women in Ghana who work for children’s survival. Here, Fati Sibdow and Abdullai Abubakari tell their story.
By Madeleine Logan
NORTHERN GHANA, 09 May 2013 - Fati Sibdow and Abdullai Abubakari last year inspired 78 communities in the Northern Region of Ghana to build their own latrines and stop defecating outside. It’s hard work building a pit latrine, starting to use a toilet and remembering to wash your hands, if you’ve never done those things before. But Fati and Abdullai encouraged the communities the whole way – returning again and again to check on their progress. Children in these 78 communities are now safe from diarrhea thanks to Fati and Abdullai’s work!
Abdullai: “When I come into a community, I tell people “I’m not coming to give you any money and I’m not here to take any money. But I’m here to tell you about something, and if you stick to it, you will see the benefits”. I’m an environmental health officer, and I work on Community Led Total Sanitation. The first time I go to a community, I meet the chief and elders and set a time to come back when the whole community is there. When I return, we draw a map of the community on the ground with sticks. We mark where the houses are, where the refuse points are, and where people shit. Then I ask them to show me the places they defecate. We walk to those places and stand where there is a lot of faeces. You can see the flies on the faeces. I ask them. Where are they going to after this? They say they’re going to prepare food. I say: Are the flies going to sit on that food? Yes. If it rains, where will the shit go to? They say it will go back to the stream. What do you do with that water? We fetch it and drink it. I ask: Do we agree we are eating our own shit?
“We go back to the sitting ground and discuss solutions. Some say they should dig and bury their faeces. Others say they should build latrines. People say they should cover their food from flies. Or clear the bushes so nobody can hide in them to defecate. The community draws up their own action plans.”
Fati: “We call some communities ‘Matchbox in a Gas Station’ – they start building latrines as soon as the first meeting is over. Others have ‘Promising Flames’, ‘Scatter Sparks’ or a ‘Damp matchbox’. We keep on visiting the community, and working with them. We don’t stop until they are open defecation free.
“We used to give people slabs for building toilets, but that didn’t work. They would dig the pit and we would pay, they would build the super structure and we would pay. With all that support, the people would still defecate outside. They have never been told about the importance of toilets before.
“Last year, Abdullai and I helped 78 communities become open defecation free in the Yendi and Mion districts. This year, our goal is to have another 140 communities become open defecation free.
“When we see communities that are clean, we are happy. When communities are happy, we are happy.”