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Changing policy to implement critical change in Mauritania

© UNICEF Mauritania/2011
Teaching the importance of handwashing, hygiene and sanitation to children in Mauritania.

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, 15 April 2011 - Hadjia, 15, grew up in Bakaw, a remote Mauritanian village in the Brakna region where childhood poverty was the norm and the lack of access to proper sanitation led to bouts with disease, pain and acute diarrhea.

Sanitation as progress

One day, while Hadjia was on holiday visiting her aunt in neighboring Niakaka, Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) facilitators appeared in the small village. Hadjia reflected upon what the community had to say and admired their decision to become ODF (Open Defecation Free) advocates. Their message was clear: never defecate in the bush and always wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom. She instinctively knew that this meant progress.  After a few days Hadjia went back to her village determined to change things.

Back home, Hadjia refused to eat until her mother got soap and water to wash her hands. She explained to her the necessity of proper hygiene and the message spread. She even built a little hole in in the backyard and surrounded it with branches and old material to serve as a latrine.  Now, CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) has arrived at her village and Hadjia is helping to make the ODF become a reality.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2011
Hadja, sharing information and raising awareness about sanitation in Mauritania.

CLTS and Essential Family Practices awareness campaigns are carried out in five main regions and are implemented in partnership with UNICEF and the Mauritanian Government. Community ownership as shown by evaluations and strong political commitment are furthering the scaling up of this approach. Even though the sanitation indicators remain weak with a coverage rate of 26 per cent, the leveraging of expertise and resources has led to a real change in policy design. This is helping to position the sanitation realm - and CLTS in particular - at the top of the Government’s agenda.

Critical change

On April 13th, the Mauritanian Government launched the Sanitation National Policy under the auspices of the Minister of Hydrology and Sanitation, along with the UN Resident Coordinator, a UNICEF Representative and a large array of partners.

“This important policy will enhance community development and trigger a real behavioral change,” noted the Minister of Hydrology and Sanitation, Mr. Mohamed Lemine Ould Abbaye, in his opening address.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2011
UNICEF Representative Catherine Mbengue, Minister of Hydrology and Sanitation, Mr. Mohamed Lemine Ould Abbey and UN Resident Coordinator, Coumba Mar Gadio during the official launch of the new Sanitation National Policy.

This policy is crafted around CLTS which is achieving important results with a positive trend in behavioral change in 250 villages. The new policy will extend this approach at a national level.

“In order to promote equity we must give the utmost priority to sanitation in rural and poor regions where children suffer from multiples sanitation related diseases impeding their development and preventing them to reach their full potential,” said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Representative.

This multidimensional vision aimed at promoting this essential sector will help people like Hadjia to live in an adequate and healthy environment. These important advances which are occurring in Bakaw and Niakaka and in many other villages across the country, inspired by unknown young leaders such as Hadjia are succeeding in their effort to achieve real social change.



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