NAROK, Kenya – Village Sanitation Committees are busy spearheading the drive in Kenya’s rural sides to accelerate progress on making villages free from open defecation by encouraging the local people to shift from the generations-long practice to proper toilet use.
Inadequate access to sanitation and hygiene has long made open defecation a way of life for the poor rural population of Kenya, with the latest estimates showing that 10% of Kenyans practice open defecation – a major threat to public health and more needs to be done to tackle this health problem.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims at ending open defecation and ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable sanitation services by 2030, with a focus on the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
The village sanitation committees have already made efforts to raise awareness of the effects of open defecation and empower communities to own proper toilet facilities and maintain them.
Working alongside the Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program (K-SHIP), a mapping exercise was carried out by members of the village sanitation committees through the village wards, encouraging people to switch from open defecation to safe pit latrines.
“We took the responsibility to ensure that no one was defecating openly because it would ultimately affect all of us collectively,” said one of the committee members speaking to a member of the Collaborative Council for Water Supply and Sanitation in Kenya.
What drives the Village Sanitation Committees?
These committees demonstrate the passion and efforts that local people in Kenya have made to ensure that no one is left behind in their efforts to end open defecation. But implementation of behavior change in rural parts of Kenya has not been an easy road for members of Village Sanitation Committees.
“Many households are resistant to change and unwilling to stop defecating in the open,” says a report compiled by the committee.
In the face of this threat, the committees have agreed to work with the local administration to encourage members of the community to take positive action to promote villages free of open defecation.
“This was an effective strategy,” people responded to the messages, but there were some unanswered questions. It was not clear if the locals acted because of their fear and respect for authority or because they understood the importance of latrines and were willing to change their behavior
The village sanitation committees target both individuals and households on proper hygiene practices with clear messages. The committee didn’t just stop churning out messages but went a step further.
The committee members took it upon themselves to promote the construction of sanitation facilities for both challenging households and people with physical disabilities, according to a report published by K-SHIP.
“We need to make sure no one defecates in the open because it would eventually impact us all collectively.”
The village sanitation committees are made up of people who are concerned about health issues and inspired to drive change, and K-SHIP agrees that the efforts of the committees as part of the community-driven overall sanitation project, are essential for sustainable sanitation.
This years’ World Toilet Day draws attention to the need to expand access to safe toilets for all and leave no one behind.
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