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By Alain Tossounon and Antoine A. Kankoé Adanlete
DAPAONG, Togo – Hundreds of students, school children and market women across towns of Togo made a commitment to using latrines in an effort to tackle the nation’s devastating sanitation crisis, advocating for an open-defecation-free nation in celebration of World Toilet Day.
In Dapaong, located in the Throne health district 650 kilometers north of the capital Lomé, students from the primary schools of Louanga and Tampiéna discussed the use of latrines and good hygiene practices. With the support of a local NGO, Communication for Sustainable Development, practical activities followed to encourage young learners to acquire good handwashing practices.
According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report, 47 percent of the population, or 3.7 million people, still defecate in the open in Togo. In rural villages, the rate of open defecation jumps up to 72 percent while the rate in urban areas remains 12 percent.
Across the country, a total of 15 non-governmental organizations carried out activities alongside the Ministry of Health between 19 and 22 November to raise collective awareness about the importance and necessity of having and using a latrine in every household and of adopting good hygiene practices to end open defecation in towns and villages, and breaking the chain of oral-fecal contamination.
In the districts of Bassar and Dankpen, the NGO, Support for Development and Community Health (Appui au Développement et à la Santé Communautaire - ADESCO), initiated sensitization activities at the primary schools of N'Grouli in the canton of Kalanga and of Natchitikpi in the canton of Natchitikpi.
Students learned about universal access to safe toilets without anyone being forgotten. The public session with children was followed by a discussion that also sensitized the teachers.
In Lomé, WSSCC-supported Global Sanitation Fund programme and the Department of Basic Hygiene and Sanitation organized a visit to the “Âgoè Assiyéyé” market on 19 November, reaching out to dozens of market women.
The importance of having and using latrines in every household and in public places, taking disadvantaged people into account, was at the heart of the discussions. The same message was carried by the prefectural hygiene and basic sanitation service to students of the General Education College (CEG) of Agadji in the district of Amou, and by the NGO, Human Dimension, to students of the CEG Sirka in Binah district.
Triggering sessions were also held in the colleges of Tetebe in the district of Danyi, and at the Tado Catholic Primary School and the Halime primary public school in Middle Mono on the initiative of the NGOs la Colombe and Cadi-Togo. The day was also celebrated at the Lycée de Biankouri with 941 pupils mobilized and at the Collège Boade with 254 pupils, thanks to the NGO Regional Organization for Social and Agricultural Promotion (OREPSA).
Students made the commitment to set an example by keeping the school latrines clean and, in turn, encouraging their parents to ensure no one is left behind while helping them construct latrines.
The same commitment was made by the political and administrative authorities. A large meeting was organized in Alédjo Kadara by the prefecture of Assoli in partnership with the Regional Coordination Cells (CCR) and the Prefectural Coordination Cells (CCP) of the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) program with the support of the NGO ADESCO.
About 500 people were mobilized with an effective presence of mayors, municipal councilors, chiefs of cantons and villages to generate public commitment from local authorities on several levels to form a united front to end open defecation in Togo.
At all stages of the celebration and for all the sites visited, the media, especially radio, were put to help relay the messages and, above all, motivating communities to change their behaviour by adopting good practices.