How a village in Uganda sustained ODF by helping vulnerable groups


Original story by Bashir Hangi, Uganda Sanitation Fund

In Agelilyec, community members are supporting disadvantaged groups as part of a larger effort to keep their village open defecation free.

In a remote area in Lira District, northern Uganda, the village of Agelilyec has been open defecation free (ODF) for a number of years. The village has sustained this status with help from the Global Sanitation Fund-supported Uganda Sanitation Fund.

According to community members, one of the most important factors for sustaining ODF status was ensuring that the entire community supported disadvantaged people to access and use improved sanitation and hygiene.

Triggered to end open defecation and support the most vulnerable

After health extension workers from the local government facilitated the initial Community-Led Total Sanitation triggering session, the community realized that vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and child-headed families, would face challenges in constructing sanitation and hygiene facilities. Through this process, the village came to realize that ignoring these groups would leave them with no option but to defecate in the open, which adversely affects the health and dignity of the entire community.

A clear result of the triggering process has been the creation of a village sanitation committee, with each member responsible for overseeing sanitation in a number of households.

In addition, a village savings and loan association called Kongwa (meaning ‘Help us’) has been established. Comprised of 19 women and 11 men, the association lends money to members in need, to help improve household incomes.

Agwer Geoffrey, chairperson of the savings and loan association, reflects on how the fear of eating each other’s faeces through their presence in the water, through flies etc.. – driven by the triggering process – has led to sustained action.

“Some of the group members are on the village sanitation committee and they reminded us that our village is ODF and we need to do something towards maintaining that status. The group members feared eating faeces because we had been notified of the dangers associated with eating faeces. We therefore realized that the vulnerable people are a great danger to our community if left without assistance, because we will be eating their faeces.”

Community-owned solutions

Members of the Kongwa group have decided to use some of the profits from the savings and loan association to help vulnerable people in the community construct new sanitation facilities, or renovate existing ones.

Agwer explains: “We use part of the profits to buy materials and mobilize labour within the community, to help child-headed families and persons with disabilities have access to good sanitation. We recently constructed a toilet for a household and improved another one. We also help check that their water sources are clean. So far, we have helped five households in our village which made sure that we stayed ODF.”

Agelilyec demonstrates that if a community is fully triggered, and the needs of disadvantaged people are given the priority, then communities will come up with their own, innovative solutions for equal access to improved and sustained sanitation and hygiene.