The milestone comes after the Water for Eastern Equatoria Project worked with communities to build sanitation facilities, improving the health and quality of living standards for 2,000 households.
Celebrating the achievement of an important milestone
This has been the best moment we are celebrating in this village … We appreciate the project because there is no more faeces on the roadside or in the near-by bushes like before, we live in healthy and hygienic homes.
On October 2nd and 3rd, four villages in Ayachi County, South Sudan, were declared open-defecation free (ODF), an enormous achievement for the entire community. National and state government ministers rubbed shoulders with the members of local sanitation committees, facilitators from partner organisations, and most importantly – the nearly 700 residents of the villages themselves (357 women and 341 men).
Open defecation is a serious health issue in South Sudan, leading to diseases such as typhoid and cholera among others. As a development project, Water for Eastern Equatoria worked with local communities to innovate their own solutions with a focus on utilising available resources. Visiting villages in Torit and Kapoeta, implementing partners tackled this challenging and sensitive issue through an approach called community-led total sanitation (CLTS).
Getting to ODF
The CLTS approach mobilises communities around their own sanitation, facilitating the construction of infrastructure but with a strong focus on behavioural changes. To date, using the CLTS method, Water for Eastern Equatoria has worked with communities to declare 16 villages comprising nearly 2000 households ODF, improving the health and quality of living for 8,896 people (4,627 women and 4,269 men).
For the residents of these four villages in Ayachi County, achieving ODF was particularly exciting as the area was not originally covered by the project activities. Based on the results from earlier phases, the project was extended to Greater Magwi (Ayachi, Magwi and Pageri Counties) and parts of Greater Budi (Chukudum and Kimatong Counties) over the past year. Elsewhere in Torit and Kapoeta States, four additional villages with 385 households and 2,696 people (1,402 women and 1,294 men) were verified by county and state officials to have earned ODF status.
Working closely with two national NGOs - Rural Water and Sanitation Support Agency (RUWASSA) and Integrated Community Peace and Development Organization (ICPDO) - NIRAS strengthened the local capacity to undertake CLTS triggering and follow-up activities within the selected villages in the targeted counties. This involved working with the county WASH and health departments as well as leaders and chiefs to empower community members, especially women and youth, to become CLTS facilitators and establish sanitation committees. They received backstopping support from RUWASSA and ICPDO and periodic monitoring and technical support from the Water for Eastern Equatoria Project’s WASH software advisor national consultant.
The local facilitators who were trained through the project came from around the region. Ochaya Abraham, a CLTS facilitator trained by RUWASSA, spoke at the celebration:
Since I received the knowledge during training, I went back home and did an assessment of Ibari village where I live to determine the initial sanitation status. From my findings, the village had only three pit latrines out of the 24 households. I transferred the knowledge I got to my community and in less than two months, each household constructed a latrine without any external support of materials
Ochaya also informed the gathering that the effort truly brought the community together. When two elderly ladies proved unable to construct pit latrines for themselves, the community volunteered their time and resources to get the job done.
Recognising the community’s successes
For officials who have been watching the community’s progress over the past year, the certification of ODF was a validation of the government’s support to the project. The guest of honour at the event was Peter Mahal, the Director-General of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation from the National Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. Mr. Mahal acknowledged the efforts of all partners and stakeholders involved in the achievement, telling the assembled crowd “These villages are some of the fruits of the Water for Eastern Equatoria Project and I am the happiest today because when you labour for something and it produces fruits, you become happy and this is what has happened here.”
Odiambo Fabiano, the County WASH Director of Ayachi, commended the four communities for their hard work and for taking up the teaching, suggesting that ODF villages invite their sister villages to share in the celebration. Martin Ochullo, the County Executive Director of Ayachi also told those assembled how much he appreciated their collective decision to kick diseases like cholera and diarrhoea out and away, and reminded them that this accomplishment comes not from an NGO but from the government and the communities themselves.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Mahal urged the communities not to go back to old habits, but rather to sustain the achievement – and even take it beyond their villages. Echoing the theme of the event, he reminded everybody “Let’s keep it ODF!” Attoo Betty, a women’s leader in Ayolo Village who also sits on the Sanitation Committee, summed up the sense of accomplishment and pride felt by the community members: “If you are passing by, do not stop on the road side, feel free to ask water or food from any household in this village, it is healthy!”
For more information on the project, visit www.water4ee.org.
Compiled by Pasquina Acidria Mani – WASH Software National Consultant, Water For Eastern Equatoria Project. Water for Eastern Equatoria Project was made possible through funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan for Water Sector Development and implemented by NIRAS International Consulting.