A local Non-Governmental Organization, Development Initiative Programme (DIP), in collaboration with UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone, has on Saturday 18th December 2010 ended a five-day celebration of a successful Open Defecation Free programme of activities in target communities in the Port Loko District.
Open Defecation Free is a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Programme, one of the methods used in Sierra Leone to rapidly increase sustainable Sanitation Coverage nationwide.
It would be recalled that Sierra Leone was torn apart by the eleven year Civil conflict, and one of the several reasons why the war broke out was the inequitable access to essential basic services. Since the achievement of peace in 2002, government capacity and effectiveness have improved, security has been established and much of the population has returned home to resume normal life.
However, thousands are still faced with continued lack of basic services and poor socio-economic living conditions. Water and Sanitation, Health and Education MDG targets are far from being achieved. Reports say that only 32% of rural dwellers use improved sanitation facilities and have access to improved water sources.
It is against this backdrop that UNICEF the key UN is working with reputable local NGOs ( like DIP) to assist in the areas of Sanitation, Health and Education through out the country.
Facilitators trained by DIP with support from UNICEF, went into the target communities, used participatory activities and demonstrations to catalyze and hence analyze their own sanitation situation including Open Defecation patterns and faecal oral-contamination. These communities were then guided to develop strategies to eliminate Open Defecation. Local terms were used to describe faeces-KAKA- and hence created the opportunity for frank discussions about demerits of Open Defecation. This exercise then spurred the respective communities into collective action to eliminate Open Defecation with ‘Natural Leaders’ playing the pivotal role in the awareness raising against the ills of Open Defecation. Sanitation Committees were subsequently set up to play the supervisory role. These communities were further guided by DIP facilitators, with the assistance of ‘Natural Leaders’ to develop low cost Latrine designs, starting construction with local materials and expertise.( see pictures of such locally constructed latrines). About one hundred communities were initially targeted. The first segment of the project, had earlier been completed, targeting 22 communities in the Port Loko District.
With support from UNICEF, a key UN agency in Sanitation, Health Education, DIP has again successfully implemented Community Led Sanitation Open Defecation Free project in over 40 communities in Upper and Lower Dibia and BKM Chiefdoms in the Port Loko District. Celebrations marking the completion of the ODF in these communities took place on Tuesday 14th, Wednesday 15th Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday respectively.
Thirteen (13) communities first assembled at Rogbetorhen village in the Mafornah Section Upper Dibia on Tuesday 14th December to kick off celebrations. On Wednesday 15th December, 2010 ten communities assembled at Gbombana in the Makom section Lower Dibia to celebrate ODF; Rokel in the Makom section hosted eight communities on Thursday 16th December 2010; Royeder village, in the Kagbatama section, hosted ten communities and Petifu- Kanu village in the Romeni Section of BKM Chiefdom hosted nine communities for the final celebrations so far of the Open Defecation Free Project.
Community elders and stakeholders who spoke at the meetings appreciated UNICEF/DIP for their timely intervention in addressing through raising awareness and providing the necessary guidance towards addressing their (communities) sanitation problems.
“ Faeces are dangerous to our health and very difficult to control. But with DIP’s intervention, we are happy and may God bless and UNICEF” THE Head Man of Rokel village said after it was translated from the local dialect-Temne. Others stakeholders who spoke in a similar manner included women’s leaders, Sheiks, Imams and youth leaders. Each promised to ensure that open defecation is perfectly put under control as they themselves realized it was a menace in their lives. Traditional dancing known as ‘Kaka Dance’ ( as seen in pictures) climaxed each celebration.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.