Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)
When we think about clean water in the developing world, wells are an easy idea to support. By now, most of us are aware that a frightening number of people globally — about 1 in 10 — lack access to clean water. Clean drinking water is vital for life, and at DROP we’re committed to seeing that every man, woman and child on the planet gets it. But there’s another issue that affects more people around the world and yet is discussed much less frequently: Sanitation and more specifically, the practice of open defecation.
It’s often embarrassing to talk about toilets, but the lack of sanitation in the developing world is a devastating problem. According to the most recent UNICEF update on Sanitation and Drinking Water, we are making great progress in clean water. In fact the population lacking clean water has been reduced by half in the past 15 years. Unfortunately, we have simultaneously fallen short in sanitation. There are still 2.4 billion people on this planet who lack access to proper sanitation facilities. That is one in every three people! In 2013, UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson launched a Call to Action on Sanitation. His goal was eliminating the practice of open defecation by 2025. It’s estimated that lack of sanitation causes about 50% of diseases globally.
Drop in the Bucket was recently given a grant to help eliminate open defecation in Lobule Village, which is in Eastern Equatoria state in South Sudan. Like many people in the developing world, the people of Lobule would defecate in the open — most commonly in bushes near their homes. If it makes you uncomfortable to think about a village with no toilets, imagine how it would be to actually live like that on a daily basis. Nobody in Lobule Village had the convenience or privacy of using a toilet. In fact the entire community was living just steps away from their own waste. As well at the flies, smell and risk of disease, there were also other risks. Some children would be embarrassed and walk outside the safety of the village and were abducted after dark.
Open Defecation Free (ODF) Certification
In June 2015, we gathered the entire village — about 550 people total — and walked with them from household to household to see every family’s “restroom.” We brought food with us and sat it down as we began a presentation. The community listened to our presentation while watching flies buzz back and forth between the food and the feces. We showed them posters of flies’ feet and explained how flies carried germs and diseases onto your food and into your body. After the presentation we left our contact information and left the village.
Although this approach may seem harsh, it is essential. In many communities, we are battling against long-ingrained practices and behaviors, and we must be sure that the community wants to change. Many organizations will build excellent facilities but will not take time to perform adequate training and education. These are the projects that often fail. Creating structures is rarely the issue. Change happens with awareness and education. It only happens when communities want to change their own behavior.
Within days, the leaders of Lobule called us and asked to come back and help them. Our trainers went to Lobule and taught each household how dig their own a pit latrines. The results have been extraordinary. Women have more privacy, children are safer and the community is happier and healthier.
“There is no more feces in our surroundings, no more stench coming from our environment,” said Margarate Chongdok, a member of the village. “Thanks to Drop in the Bucket for helping us to build for ourselves these pit latrines.”
A reason to celebrate
There aren’t celebratory images to share of toilets like there are of wells. And that’s for good reason — using the bathroom should be a private, sanitary experience for every person in the world. It may not be easy to discuss, but in the developing world it is just as important to eliminate the practice of open defecation as it is to provide clean drinking water. At DROP, we’re committed to combating every aspect of the global water crisis. That is precisely why Lobule village’s open defecation free status is something to celebrate.