Peace and latrines in Mershing, South Darfur
Dar Alsalam Abdullah and her family are finally able to return to their home village
Under the scorching sun or in the complete darkness and silence of the night Dar Alsalam would have to walk 1 kilometre just to use the bathroom. This was especially difficult for her during the years where she would be pregnant with her six children.
“It would take me around twenty minutes to walk to and back from the location where I could respond to the call of nature. Oftentimes, my children would be screaming and crying for me to get back.”
Dar Alsalam and her family have been displaced since 2004 when conflict arose throughout the Darfurs, leaving them no option but to move to Otash Camp for Internally Displaced People (IDPs), 5 kilometres away from Nyala town in South Darfur.
However, in 2015 they were finally able to come back to their old hometown village, Gangu in Mershing locality.
The village seems to have been wiped clean, with no traces of life , but that is slowly changing. You can see children playing around, women lining up at water points and others trying to generate income through coal making, as piles of bags of coal line the streets of Gangu. Although it may take a while to resettle and rebuild their lives, Dar Alsalam and her family are happy that there is peace in their home village.
For a while, Dar Alsalam, and her family of four girls and two boys did not have access to any private latrine in their home. They would walk for about 1 kilometre to the outskirts of the village to use the bathroom.
Open defecation causes many diseases including diarrhea which is the second largest killer of children under five years in Sudan, 60 per cent of these cases are attributable to factors essentially originating from poor management of human excreta.
“I used to be afraid for my children to go to the ‘khala’ (desert) because of scorpions and snakes,” says Dar Alsalam.
With a population of 550 people and over 50 households, only 12 houses had latrines before UNICEF’s intervention.
“As a woman, especially when I was pregnant, it was very difficult for me to go to that far whenever I needed to go,” Dar Alsalam. “I was also afraid for my daughters to go that far when it is late at night, their safety was always a concern.”
In November 2019, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health officially launched a road map to Open Defecation Free (ODF) Sudan by 2022. The key interventions of the road-map target households, institutions, health centers, schools, religious centers, markets, and other key community centers. Through the road-map, the Ministry of Health and UNICEF’s main objective is to recognize the economic and social empowerment that comes along when all public institutions and households have access to clean and safe toilets.
“My husband built our toilet and now we don’t have to worry about going far,” says Dar Alsalam. “My children used to get sick all the time but now they are doing well and are healthy.”
UNICEF currently contributes to more than 80 per cent of the ODF results in the country with support from key donors such as DFID, KFW, KOICA, and Qatar Foundation. Together with the Federal Ministry of Health, UNICEF is also supporting the development of State ODF road maps. Eight states have drafted road maps to eliminate open defecation.