Twelve villages in Somaliland and two in Puntland have been officially recognized for demonstrating that everyone in their community uses a toilet and no longer goes into the fields, bushes, forests, water or open spaces to defecate.
The news comes as the world marks World Toilet Day, on 19 November, which focuses on taking action to reach the 2.4 billion people worldwide living without a toilet. Sanitation is a global development priority with the Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, including a target of ensuring everyone everywhere has access to toilets by 2030.
UNICEF has introduced a behaviour change approach known as Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) – a sensitization process to empower community members to take collective action to end open defecation and to build and use toilets. This approach focuses on the health benefits of not defecating in the open.
In 2012 UNICEF began the project in 60 villages throughout Somalia and is finally seeing some results. The 12 villages were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) by designated verification teams led by the Ministries of Health.
“This really is progress that could save the lives of children,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative who visited one of the newly declared ODF villages of Gabiley in Somaliland. “This is now a much cleaner, healthier environment for everyone. The community here and in all the ODF villages are to be congratulated on their commitment and action.”
Over a third of people in Somalia (37 per cent) practice open defecation which poses a serious threat to the health of the community – particularly children. Poor sanitation has resulted in a continuing high rate of diarrhoea among children under five despite the increased access to improved water sources. Children weakened by frequent diarrhoea episodes are more vulnerable to malnutrition, and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia. Open defecation also increases the community’s risk of polio which is transmitted through human faeces and which affected 199 Somalis, mostly children, between 2013 and 2014.
Open defecation also puts the dignity and security of women at risk as women often wait until night to relieve themselves for reasons of privacy.
A key factor in ensuring the buy-in and sustainability of the CLTS approach is the removal of subsidies for the construction of the latrines. This means the community is investing in owning and therefore maintaining the latrines it has paid for. The support of the authorities is also important to reach as many communities as possible and to monitor the sustainability of the Open Defecation Free status.
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