Sougoumba, between hope and well-being!

In Sikasso, the impact of Community-Led Total Sanitation is now visible to the naked eye

By Ismael Maiga
Salif Dembélé president of the CSCom and community relay, during a door-to-door awareness session, in order to sensitize households on the importance of washing their hands with soap and promoting good hygiene practices. Village of Soungoumba, rural commune of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita
31 December 2019

In rural areas in Mali, difficulties accessing drinking water and sanitation remain real bottlenecks for the well-being of children and communities. In Koutiala, around twenty villages have signed up to an approach known as Community-Led Total Sanitation.

Salif Dembélé president of the CSCom and community relay, during a door-to-door awareness session, in order to sensitize households on the importance of washing their hands with soap and promoting good hygiene practices. Village of Soungoumba, rural commune of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

Salif Dembélé, 52, is a community health worker in Soungoumba. The athletic father of 12 has been carrying out his work for the past 14 years. Nominated by the community, he provides valuable support to the Community Health Center (CSCOM) of the village. Every day, he crosses the village, either as part of the campaign for preventing seasonal malaria in children, or to screen for malnutrition, or to raise awareness on the importance of vaccination. During his visits, he never forgets to emphasize the importance of hygiene in the home.

Access to drinking water, handwashing with clean water and soap and using sanitary latrines in a community can change children's lives and improve the overall well-being of communities. In Mali, 1 in 10 children never reach their fifth birthday. Many of these children die from preventable causes, such as diarrhea or acute respiratory infections. Water, hygiene and sanitation interventions become especially important in such circumstances.

“Today handwashing facilities with soap are found in all family homes”

Handwashing with clean water and soap can reduce the risk of diarrhea, which can lead to death, by almost 50%. It also helps prevent the spread of other infections, such as seasonal influenza. Finally, ithas an impact on the nutritional status of children: according to the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Impact Study conducted in Mali between 2011-2015, communities that adopted good hygiene and sanitation practices saw a 22% reduction in severe stunted growth in children under the age of 5.

Crescent Dabou administrator of the WASH program at UNICEF Sikasso with Salif Dembélé the president of the CSCom and a community relay during the awareness session on enriched porridge. Village of Soungoumba, rural commune of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

The community health worker, who serves as an interface for the medical profession, explains his role. “I collect information about the health of the communities and share it with the CSCOM. Together, we carry out awareness-raising on vaccination, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation. The community trusts me and knows I can support them in managing health problems.”

Salif Dembélé, who maintains very good relations with the population, doesn't lose sight of the difficulties faced by community health workers. “Talking about open defecation just a few weeks ago was considered indecent. Today, handwashing facilities with soap are found in all the family homes, near the latrines.”

12-year-old Mawa Berthe, a 6th grade student at the Sougoumba basic school, she washes her hands using a locally made handwashing device installed in their families. Village of Soungoumba, rural commune of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

Designed using local or reused materials, these devices are now being used correctly. Their use has been well adapted to the local context and fits in seamlessly with family and social customs. Korian and Siné are children from Kadiata Sanogo's family, aged 15 and 13. Back from school, they head straight towards the device to wash their hands. A gesture that prompts a huge smile from Salif Dembélé, who’s on an unannounced home visit.

"The communities were encouraged to use their creativity as well as local means to eliminate open defecation"

Crescent Dabou, Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Administrator at the UNICEF office in Sikasso, explains: “In less than 10 months of implementing this approach, these communities have been encouraged to analyze the flaws and the risks of their sanitary conditions and to use their creativity and local means to eliminate open defecation.”

The introduction of handwashing devices and the promotion of good hygiene practices are coupled with the construction of latrines, another cornerstone of the CLTS approach. Recent studies have shown that the use of latrines reduces the risk of disease by 32%. This evidence was corroborated by data collected from the CSCOM, where a net reduction in admissions for diseases due to a lack of water or sanitation was noted.

Zoumana Berthe technical director of the DTC center of the CSCom de Sougoumba with the women in the courtyard of the center after the consultation for advice on hygiene. Village of Soungoumba, Rural municipality of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

The goal of the USAID-funded “Improve Child Survival” project is to improve the survival and well-being of children under five in Mali, in particular those that are the most vulnerable. This support made it possible to provide kits, talks and community participation through Jigi and all involved parties. The multi-sector approach is aimed at children in the targeted regions of Sikasso, Ségou and Mopti.

According to Souleymane Berthé, mayor of the Koningué commune, CLTS is a great approach for raising awareness, managing hygiene and sanitation and empowering families. "Incentive measures, such as the introduction of the clean villages competition, spark off competition within the commune. Currently, water, hygiene and sanitation occupy a prominent place in the socio-economic development plan of the commune. To keep the flame alive, we’ve inaugurated a monument with the emblem of the caiman, commemorating the end of open defecation in each of our villages.”

The monument dedicated to good hygiene practices installed in front of the town hall of the Sougoumba village. Village of Soungoumba, Rural municipality of Koningué, Sikasso region, Mali, October 2019.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

The use of a totemic animal symbolizes a pact to never return to the mistakes of the past. The community dynamic has caught on, and it’s bringing hope for clean children, who are already ready to carry on good hygiene practices in the future.