A boldly worded sign in Ogoo Farm, Sierra Leone is hard for villagers to ignore. Recently, a DFID-backed community initiative has led to a flurry of toilet-building in Ogoo, and this billboard reminds locals that, when nature calls, the new latrines are the places to go.
In the past, in the absence of decent sanitation, people would have used the bush surrounding the village, or even the nearby stream, which was also used for washing. This was a major health risk, and cholera became the community's major killer.
Throughout Sierra Leone, too few people have access to toilets and know about good hygiene. This is why DFID is supporting a country-wide water and sanitation program over the next five years. As the program reaches out to more villages, Ogoo Farm could serve as a role model - a symbol of how local people can pull together to bring about real changes.
How Did They Do I?
A community-based approach was at the heart of the improvements in Ogoo. Workshops were set up in which villagers were asked to analyze their own sanitation conditions. Looking at the extent of defecation in open spaces, they saw the connection to the spread of disease.
Something had to be done to address this - and collective action was the answer. Soon, latrine-building was under way across the village. And Ogoo's residents didn't need much persuading to lend a hand. As community leader Ibrahim Suma explains:
"We passed messages of hygiene through the churches and mosques. Local people were not forced - they are willingly building latrines. After two members of the community completed their latrines, the others followed by example."
Perhaps most impressively of all, the villagers transformed Ogoo Farm without the use of any outside money. Having decided that a major sanitation problem existed, they built the latrines themselves, out of local materials.
Local People Work It Out
The initiative in Ogoo followed the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. After asking local people to look carefully at their sanitation needs, further decisions and actions are left up to them. Crucially, CLTS provides no funds for hardware - the community must make use of locally available resources instead.
This type of approach, which is known for delivering fast results, has been identified as the best way to spread sanitation coverage on a wide scale. During the workshops in Ogoo, more than 130 people from national and local government, as well as from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), received CLTS training.
A Role Model to Others
Similar workshops have now taken place in two other districts - so that's 30 communities who are benefiting from this approach. These sessions, which mark the beginning of the national water and sanitation program, bode well for the years ahead, as DFID, Unicef and the government work to get decent sanitation to more of Sierra Leone's people.
In January of this year, a ceremony was held to celebrate Ogoo Farm becoming free of open defecation. At the ceremony, the village head, Bai Kabia, spoke of how he would like to see Ogoo's success spur even more communities into action:
"Health is wealth. Last year, 75% of deaths in our village were caused by cholera. Fifty-seven toilets have now been built in the community - and we are willing to be a role model to others!"
Notes to editors :
Notes to Editors:
DFID is funding the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program with $64 million over five years from 2008.
DFID has provided a first tranche of funding of $2.8 million to Unicef to help the government take forward water and sanitation improvements, and further test and scale up CLTS.
The CLTS workshops in Ogoo Farm were funded by Unicef as part of a joint program with DFID and the government of Sierra Leone. CLTS originates from Dr Kamil Kar's evaluation of DFID-funded work in Bangladesh in 1999.
WASH aims to support the government in strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene services at national and district levels, improving access to water and sanitation for at least 1.5 million people.
In Sierra Leone, only 47% of the population have access to safe water, only 30% have access to sanitation, and there is poor knowledge of hygiene. This contributes to Sierra Leone's high child mortality figures - which are the worst in the world.
2008 is the International Year of Sanitation
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