Sanitation for a better health: We are leading villages in Angola to Open Defecation Free status
"We have learned that we need to preserve our health because the health is life". This is how Eliseu Sipitali explains the benefits that People in Need's program on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) has provided to the dwellers of Mbambi Mupa village, Bié province, Angola.
"Many of us didn't have any knowledge about latrines building and personal hygiene. The program has explained to us what is necessary for a healthy life. After the work of awareness, we have begun digging holes for the latrines. In the beginning, the latrines were made of grass; and we have already started to build latrines with clay," describes the beneficiary. "We are learning to consider health as a priority. Now we know the importance of washing hands before eating and using soap," adds him another community activist.
Mbambi Mupa is one of more than 100 villages certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF) after the implementation of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) project in the province in recent years. The current project is financed by UNICEF, People in Need (PIN) and Andrex.
The communities are motivated to improve their own sanitation through a process of social awakening – the initiative main focus is to encourage a change in sanitation behavior rather than constructing toilets, but, in order to be certified as ODF, all the households of the village must have latrines.
Domingas Eyala lives in Calilongue commune and has 5 children. She says that before the project, the dwellers didn't know why diseases like diarrhea and malaria often affected them. "I've learned in the project that open defecation is one of the main causes for diseases. It attracted too many mosquitos, what wasn't good for our health. I've also learned to cover the latrine and wash my hands with water and ashes."
Another beneficiary of the project in Calilongue, Bonefácio Quintas, says he's teaching his seven children how to use appropriately the new latrine he has built for his family. "I have built one (latrine) on clay that is more resistant. I haven't spent too much on construction; I have used my own savings".
Progress each year
Edson Monteiro, UNICEF WASH officer, has visited some of the villages where CLTS initiative has been implemented. He appreciates the outcomes of the partnership with PIN in WASH sector. "We have had excellent results so far, and we have managed to develop highly effective tools", Edson says. "Going to the field was fruitful because we can see the standard we want to achieve in CLTS. We saw that the certified villages have better latrines, some of them made of cement, some others with septic tanks".
"We have seen progress each year. Since 2010, we saw, for the first time, a real change in behavior," describes the UNICEF officer, pointing out the next steps of the partnership with PIN. "We have to improve the social communication aspect. We want to work intensively with PIN and create tools that suit the reality of the field".
"The work with PIN in Bié has shown good results and innovation. There are technical aspects we can always improve, since the communities themselves are being innovative and are creating new things, so we have to adapt to the changes in order to further innovate," Montero adds.
Work together with the local administration
Nharea is an example of the project's sustainability. In the municipality, the initiative was officially endorsed by the local administration and implemented with the dedicated budget and human resources.
The municipal coordinator of the CLTS program, Eduardo Cameia, put in relief the decreasing number of diseases related to lack of sanitation, and stress the importance of a continuous work. "Certification is not enough. We have to continue with monitoring, so the latrines that collapse during the raining season can be repaired," he says.
The monitoring work is crucial to avoid communities to slip back into open-defecation practices. Empowering provincial and municipal authorities is a priority to disseminate CLTS and behavior change towards improved hygiene and sanitation conditions of the Angolan population.
Nharea administrator, Maria Lúcia Chicapa, discusses other issues that WASH program has brought to the municipality agenda. "Development is a process," she says. "When we talk about sanitation, there are more components. Suppose that all of the families in a village have good latrines, but they don't have clean water available, or maybe they have latrines and water, but the children don't study, so we must combine efforts to solve this problem."