The first open-defecation free village
In Warrap State (North-Central part of the country), open defecation (OD) is practiced by 95% of the population. This phenomenon is responsible for the spread of diseases and most importantly for the extremely high incidence of diarrhea, which is particularly deadly for young children. Since 2006, ACTED has therefore made the construction of both communal and household latrines one of its top priorities in Southern Sudan provinces. ACTED is now experimenting a new way of implementing sanitation projects by using Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), a technique originally designed in Bangladesh.
Today is CLTS show in Adiam, a village lying along the shores of the Jur river, in Warrap state. The elders took their stick, the women left their hut, the kids stopped diving in the river, and all gathered under the trees next to the chief’s house. Over the next few hours, the team will deploy all its energy to mobilize the community and lead it to change. The participants will first be suspicious, then burst into laughter, even run away with humiliated angry faces, but they will all finally raise their arms in sign of victory. All this emotional expense is a consequence of CLTS. And it works. Activities include village mapping, a walk around the village to encounter feces, public calculation of the amount of feces that OD involves, explanation of the role of OD in disease transmission routes, and the creation of an action committee.
After four months of intense follow up, Bona – the CLTS team leader - proudly announced that all households of Adiam were engaged in latrine construction without ACTED providing any tools, materials, or cash, and one month later, had completed latrine construction. Going around the village, the little straw huts can be found next to every house. Adiam was thus declared open-defecation free status – the first village in all of South Sudan to do so.
CLTS is magic
The ACTED team felt like CLTS is magic. Even though previously ACTED provided incentives and subsidies, the latrines were not always completed; even when built by ACTED, some latrines were found to be not used or lacking maintenance. What CLTS is bringing on the contrary is a community-owned, total and sustainable sanitation system. Increased awareness alone does not explain change. An ACTED study showed that CLTS managed to trigger discussion about OD, break a taboo, and thereby opened the way to solutions.
If convincing results are to be reached in terms of transmission of water-borne diseases, then sanitation, hygiene and water are to be tackled altogether. After triggering CLTS, concerns about hygiene and water arose in the community, where the river was the only water source and was used without any treatment. ACTED responded to their needs and provided the village with a borehole.
In the short-term, the main challenge for Adiam is the rainy season as the soil is collapsible. In the long-term, ACTED will have to take up the challenge of CLTS expansion from Adiam to neighboring villages, possibly in a self-sustained way. ACTED will also have to convince other NGOs and agencies to resume or start CLTS projects. Because CLTS does work - in Warrap State and potentially in all of South Sudan.
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