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DJOUGOU, Benin – The commune of Djougou in Benin has committed to reaching open defecation free (ODF) status by 2025, following an institutional triggering session led by Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) partners during a capacity-building mission.
In Djougou, which has 267,812 inhabitants, one third (322) of localities have already reached ODF status, thanks to the Programme to Improve Access to Good Hygiene and Sanitation Practices in Rural Areas (PAPHyr) supported by the GSF and implemented by Medical Care Development International (MCDI). The town of Onklou 2, is leading the way, having turned its back on the practice of open defecation and advancing progress in water and sanitation. However, some households in other towns, such as those in Souassar, are returning to open defecation.
Abischaï Abraham Akpalla, Mayor of Djougou, who attended the triggering session, shared his amazement at the results of the GSF programme so far:
“I am impressed by the revolution taking place in our villages,” he explains, “at the start, I did not believe it but with the work of the facilitator I changed my mind ”.
For the mayor, the first success of the programme was to get elected officials on board for the journey to becoming free from the open defecation practice.
“We local authorities are now comfortable talking about open defecation, and we will continue to put pressure on the villages that return to open defecation,” explains Mr Akpalla. “We are committed to a fully ODF Djougou by 2025.”
Mr Akpalla’s commitment was supported by Hygiene and Sanitation Officer, Justin Sare. “The situation of the villages that have returned to open defecation challenges us,” he explains, “as [the mayor] says, efforts must be made to stay the course.”
In order to achieve the goal of becoming ODF by 2025, with the support of the Municipal Council, Mr Akpalla intends to put a number of measures in place. The first is to provide further responsibility to the heads of arrondissement and the heads of villages to serve as role models in their areas. The second measure is the organization of exchange visits between model villages and villages that are still struggling to achieve ODF. The third measure is the organization and support of workers for the construction of latrines, which will also boost the rural economy and help to curb the exodus of local workers to countries like Algeria and Saudi Arabia.
“I am convinced that we can go far,” Mr Akpalla assured, “I want to see each municipality with its own [sanitation] programme. If PAPHyR stops, all of the NGOs must help us develop our own programme to continue the fight,” he argued.
The programme manager of PAPHyR, Yadjidé Adissoda Gbèdo, and the International Director of MCDI, Josea Ratsirarson, expressed their hope for Djougou, which is using the lessons it has learned so far to move forward to becoming ODF by 2025.
Welcoming the energy of the mayor and the local authorities, Mr Ratsirarson invited them to use their regulatory power to move forward, creating model villages and providing institutional support to local committees to fight against open defecation.