For the resource poor, drought-stricken locals in one rural village in Ethiopia, a household latrine was once thought of as a luxury – instead of a solution to securing long-term health for their families. As part of International Medical Corps’ Water/Sanitation/Hygiene (WASH) program in West Hararghe region, our team used community-based education and open dialogue with villagers to help overcome local barriers to safe sanitation and to secure healthy futures for the village of Gende-Basha.
To facilitate the WASH program in Ethiopia which targets a catchment population of over 611,000 including over 100,000 children under five, International Medical Corps recruited staff in country – many who speak the local language and are attuned to cultural nuances – to implement latrine construction and water reservoir platform and water tanker installation at health posts throughout the country. In order to effectively incorporate these measures in Gende-Basha, staff offered training programs to community leaders and then at the household level to educate locals about the necessity of household latrines for achieving health.
Most of the villagers had long been stricken with Giardia, a waterborne infection of the small intestine that can cause a variety of health issues including diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, upset stomach and gas. Giardia is often transmitted through the feces of infected people and especially prevalent in areas where proper sanitation and hygiene practices are compromised. Using the Community Led Total Sanitation model, International Medical Corps’ local team, comprised of 8 nurses led by Hygiene and Sanitation Promoters Makoya Asefa and Thomas Lulu, gathered community members at a communal location used for open defecation to discuss why this practice was adversely affecting their health. Asefa and Lulu discussed with them how communal and open defecation without proper disposal of human waste greatly increases waterborne disease due to rain runoff and flies settling on the site and re-infecting people in their homes.
With the help of well-respected community members referred to as “gatekeepers” the team was able to convince residents that a safe solution to this issue was to make the construction of latrines at the household level a priority for their village. The community agreed upon a deadline to complete latrine construction and elected local leaders to coordinate the construction. With help and resources from International Medical Corps, residents excavated and constructed their latrines using local materials. As a result, 60 out of 68 households in Gende-Basha have completed latrine construction with the rest expected to finish by the end of the month. The community has agreed that open defecation should be forbidden within their village which will lead to safer sanitation and hygiene conditions for their families.