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Somalia, 19 November 2016: Somaliland villages lead the way to stop open defecation

By Kun Li

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Rich
Sa’ado with two of her children at home in Geed Giqsi village, Gabiley, Somaliland. Her village was one of the first communities in Somaliland to abandon open defecation.

HARGEISA, Somaliland, 19 November 2016 – Sa’ado clearly remembers the time when she had to walk far into the open to relieve herself or defecate and would wait as long as she could to avoid the embarrassment. The experience was particularly unpleasant during the rainy season and the months when she was pregnant.

Sa’ado, her husband and her seven children live in the village of Geed Giqsi in Gabiley, Somaliland. They have a relatively comfortable life growing maize, sorghum and vegetables and tending two cows. But like the other 87 households in the village, they had never had a toilet, nor had given any thought to having one.

When UNICEF’s local partner, an NGO called HEAL, came to their village in December 2015, persuading the residents to abandon open defecation, Sa’ado and her husband immediately agreed to build a toilet. By October this year, all the families in the village had followed suite.

There were no incentives given from UNICEF and HEAL, only awareness campaigns and technical assistance. This is an approach that has been tested and proven to be working in the rest of the world – Community-Led Total Sanitation. The villagers put up their own money and did the construction on their own.

“It cost us US$80 dollars and was a lot of work,” says Sa’ado. “But we didn’t mind at all. I don’t want to walk into the dark in the middle of the night anymore just to find a hiding place to relieve myself.”

Her toilet is a pit latrine. Shielded by pieces of bright orange cloth sewed together and covered by dried, thorny branches, it stands at the edge of the family’s compound.

“The children in the village used to have diarrhoea a lot,” says Sa’ado. “But since we built the toilets, we have hardly seen any cases.”

“Many families welcomed the idea right away but many resisted it,” says Adan Abdullahi Mohamed, Programme Coordinator at HEAL. “The key to the success of the project is to make the people understand that open defecation is an unhygienic practice and causes serious illnesses especially for children and pregnant women.

“When the community realized that the river where they get water their drinking water was contaminated by their own faeces, they were convinced that a toilet is not a luxury but a necessity.”

In Somalia, more than half of the rural population practice open defecation – one of the primary causes of diarrhoea.

In 2012 UNICEF began the project in 60 villages throughout Somalia, and today 12 villages in Somaliland, including Sa’ado’s, and two in Puntland have achieved the goal of open defecation-free.

On 19 November, World Toilet Day, Sa’ado and her family joined their neighbours, government officials and UNICEF staff in a ceremony to mark the official declaration of open defecation free for the villages.

“We knew from the start that we would benefit from the toilet,” says Yusur Abdillahi of Hirsi Jicir, one of the villages being declared Open Defecation Free. “We now have a place that gives us privacy and convenience. When new people come and want to settle in our village, we ask them to dig first, or we will not welcome them,” she says, standing proudly next to her toilet.

 

 
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