by Martina Palazzo
One household = one toilet: this is the equation which has driven the village of Balimri in central Chad towards an easier, safer and healthier life. In four months’ time, every single family has been able to build a latrine in their private space. An incredible result, considering that before 98%* of the Balimri population was practicing open defecation and a toilet was most notably absent anywhere in the region.
“Before we had to go in the bush,” says Ache Adoum Barka, a 35-year old mother and member of the Club des meres -a mothers group supported by UNICEF and the Red Cross. “Now we can go to the toilet with dignity, as they are right outside our homes.”
In Balimri, improvements have been immediate in people’s daily lives. They are no longer forced to face an adventure in the bush, where snakes and darkness can kill or injure them. Without a torch, a luxury item here, people are exposed to different risks: animals, thorny plants, villains, and disruption of the soil.
Women are no longer victims of night attacks and can now dedicate part of their time to looking after their hygiene in total privacy.
“In the past, we had to go out to the bush if we want to ease ourselves. If it was in the night, you always had to take a torch with you and we didn’t always have one. During the rainy season we were always afraid of snakes and other things in the vegetation”, testifies Halime Abbays Ali.
Since excrements are no longer to be found in the vicinity of the houses, children are less vulnerable to diarrhoeal diseases, which contribute to malnutrition in young age. Lack of safe drinking water combined with poor hygiene and sanitation conditions are key factors that impact on the malnutrition rate as well as the other main causes of child mortality such as malaria, diarrhoea and measles. Hence, these facts jeopardize the child survival and development in this region.
UNICEF and the Red Cross build on social accountability and social responsibility to stimulate communities to lead their communities to become open defecation free. Community-Led Total Sanitation approach was used to impulse social commitment. Householders took the decision to stop open defecation and have been directly involved in the building process, as each family constructed their own toilet. UNICEF, thanks to the financial support of KfW Development Bank and to the field cooperation with the Red Cross, has provided them with training and materials.
As Mariam Moussa Idriss, the secretary of the Club des mères, says: “It took us five days to build our toilet. We had to go and get the materials, dig the hole, build the walls and lay the concrete base. My husband did most of the digging, and, when it is full, he will have to dig another hole, but I’m in charge of looking after it and maintaining it.”
In fact, the project lead by UNICEF mainly works with communities through a people-centred approach and aims at promoting a positive change for children’s lives in the Hadjer Lamis province. This Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach is particularly essential to reinforce community resilience by involving local leaders as change behaviour makers. They share the benefits of a sane sanitation with the rest of the community members, including less illness and a more favourable environment, with the final intention of applying good practices in terms of hygiene.
The project has so far seen more than 2,600 toilets built in ten villages across the region. It also initiated other actions to facilitate the access to safe drinking water in the targeted villages, three schools and one health care facility through 13 new and 10 rehabilitated water wells. 12 maintenance technicians were trained, and 23 Water Management Committees were created and empowered. At the end, results showed that 100% are now using their toilets.
These efforts are milestones for a dignified life!
UNICEF Chad, with the financial support of KfW Development Bank, is supporting the Government of Chad to improve equitable and sustainable access to quality health care services for populations living in the Sahel Belt (Kanem, Barh El Gazal and Hadjer Lamis) where poor indicators for child survival, child and new-born care and nutrition have been identified. Since December 2017, UNICEF has been implementing different activities through an integrated multi-sectorial approach, including trainings to services providers, distribution of equipment of facilities, strengthening the information system, coordinating mechanism and supportive supervision. The intervention aims at reaching about 606.000 people and has a special focus on the care of mothers and children, from the pregnancy up to five years.
*Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) survey / UNICEF — June 2018