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Eleven year old Abdi inspires villagers to abandon open defecation

UNICEF Somalia/2015/Eshuchi
© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Eschuchi
Abdi Rashid (left) displays a poster denouncing open defecation

By Rufus Eshuchi, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, UNICEF Somalia

Quotay Village, Dollow, South Somalia, March 2015 - “I am not going to go in the bush again. I will begin digging the pit tomorrow”.

“I am not going to go in the bush again. I will begin digging the pit tomorrow”. After making his declaration, 11 year old Abdi Rashid sat down abruptly beside the other children. He was born in this village, Quotay in Somalia, moved temporarily across the nearby border to Kenya for school, and returned to look after the family’s animals.

Abdi, a calm, unassuming boy was taking part in a learning session run by UNICEF on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) which includes the process of triggering which leads to the spontaneous and long term abandonment of open defecation. His declaration that he would stop defecating in the bush was met by giggles and laughter from the villagers. But he stood his ground and maintained he was convinced his family needed a latrine.

The CLTS Trainer in charge of this group, Ali Yere, took control and got the children to sing a song they had earlier composed, denouncing open defecation. They sang, pointing at the fresh human excreta that was collected from the fields earlier and placed on the ground in the circle. “ Keep it away!” They chanted as they raise placards prepared for them by the trainee community facilitators.

The trainer asked: “Who wants to continue eating their own excrement?” This time around, three men spoke almost simultaneously. “I am going to begin constructing a latrine”. Soon the facilitators were busy listing down on a flip chart names and contacts of men and women who wanted Quotay village to become open defecation free (ODF).

Abdi’s mother Sharifa Abdullah, once over the shock of her son’s frank intervention, said she would support him with what he required. “The only problem is that we don’t have artisans in our village to construct good latrines, but we will do what we can,” she added.

Four to five women edged closer to listen to Sharifa. She opened a floodgate from them when she mentioned the lack of water. Visiting officials from UNICEF were immediately bombarded by requests for water, a school and a clinic. Meanwhile, a growing crowd danced to a now popular song “This is excrement, keep it away!” Led by Abdi, they dug a shallow hole and buried it.



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