July has been a month of important achievements for the sanitation sector in Nepal. On 3 July 2018, with the presence of Ms. Ramkumari Chaudhary, State Minister of the Agriculture, Land Reform and Cooperative Ministry, Sunsari District was declared open defecation free (ODF).
On 12 July 2018, Nuwakot district gained the same status. The declaration programme was chaired by the District Coordination Committee (DCC) Chairperson, Mr. Santaman Tamang and the Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. Bahadur Singh Lama as the chief guest of the ceremony. A welcome speech from the Deputy Chairperson of District WASH Coordination Committee (D-WASH-CC), Ms. Apsara Thapa, opened the event followed by the highlights of the process achieved reported by Mr Mohan Lal Jaisi, a D-WASH-CC Member Secretary.
During the ceremonies, hygiene and sanitation awareness songs, cultural dances and traditional folk music were presented. Festivities revolved around dancing to the tune of sanitation and hygiene.
Ms. Sudha Shrestha, Acting Chief Technical Advisor and GSF Programme Manager at the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat), shared her joy, noting how “despite our greatest challenge of social acceptance and continued open defecation, the local government’s leadership alongside our development partners and communities’ ownership is what paved the way to its success.”
In Nuwakot, Mr. Bahadur Singh Lama made a special mention to sanitation triggerers and women for their active leadership role to achieve the result and made a similar statement: ”We have to work sincerely on total sanitation as the responsibility has been bestowed upon us for the days to come.”
Nuwakot village is one of 14 districts most affected by the earthquakes in 2015. From a zero-subsidy approach, the Government, with the support of local NGOs and donor agencies, alongside the active role of the WASH sector and the community, led to the district’s official status of ODF. It is part of a national campaign to persuade people to use toilets and improve sanitation and cleanliness. The Government has shown a unanimous political unity on this front. Additionallly, community groups and schools have been very active in the development of the campaign.
Sunsari, located in the country’s eastern Terai region, is one of the biggest economic hubs of Nepal. Bordering India, it has better access to transportation, education and other facilities compared to other districts. Therefore, achieving a cleaner and healthier environment through a focus on eliminating open defecation would not only greatly impact the community’s safety and dignity, but would also have positive economic effects. Sunsari’s history in receiving support to its sanitation practices goes back to 1980, when various development partners and international non-governmental organisations attempted to improve the situation. However, past efforts to address the problem had little success.
WSSCC has been involved in the process after the earthquakes in July 2015. The Global Sanitation Fund has been providing support, by giving priority to educational initiatives about hygiene and sanitation. Through plays, poetry, singing and dancing, the ‘triggering’ process was piloted in the area where villagers have been educated about good sanitation and hygiene practices as well as the construction of toilets.
Sunsari and Nuwakot are now the role models for the joint efforts of international actors, local communities, institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF targets. The importance of proper sanitation and hygiene more often than not gets overlooked, however, improving this sector with as simple as quality access to facilities like a toilet helps people build a life filled with pride and dignity.
Editor’s Note: This article was prepared by Ms. Sara Navarro and Ms. Creol Grandjean, Intern Analysts, WSSCC
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