Monday, January 27, 2014

Behind the scenes: Community Sanitation Meeting

Written by: Leslie Stroud-Romero, UVP Executive Director
Edited by: Tiffany Hsieh

When we use the toilet, we flush away all traces of our waste. In many of our Healthy Villages, a lack of latrines means that villagers are confronted daily with evidence of waste. Uganda Village Project’s (UVP) sanitation campaigns highlight the problem of “open defecation” and other unhygienic practices, and then offer solutions to building a healthier community. I was at a recent community meeting to introduce a sanitation campaign for one of our 2013 Healthy Villages. Kasambika 1 is very rural. The road to get there went from paved, to dirt, to a skinny dirt road, to really more of a footpath by the time we reached the meeting site.

UVP staff members traveled there to talk about the sanitation campaign. Before this meeting, UVP had already worked with the Village Health Team members to ensure that their households had proper sanitation facilities in place, which include a latrine with door, a bathing room, a plate stand to hygienically dry dishes in the sun, a trash pit, and a “tippy tap”—or hand washing station. The Village Health Team members will now be responsible for encouraging their neighbors to improve their sanitation practices and facilities, but we wanted to gather everyone for a community meeting first. UVP’s staff member Obbo Titus engaged the participants and, although I understood very little of what was said, it was clear that although they were talking about diarrhea, cleanliness, and piles of waste, the women and men had a great time as they laughed at jokes and nodded in understanding. Titus also shared the results of the baseline sanitation survey that our 2013 summer interns conducted to show them the progress they made from six months ago. 

Titus at the sanitation meeting

During the next three months, Village Health Teams will sell subsidized materials so that their neighbors can build tippy taps. They will consult about proper latrine construction, and lend a hand when cleaning up compounds. The purpose of the UVP sanitation campaigns is to educate or remind villagers about proper hygiene and sanitation, such as why using a latrine is important and how washing hands prevents disease. We do this by helping community members see the problem and then encouraging them to work together for the goal of a healthier community. No one wants to be the only person on the road without a latrine, and people want their compounds to look nice with a functioning tippy tap on site.

Our 2014 summer interns will evaluate the success of the project by identifying the improved sanitation facilities at each household, but if the meeting last week was any indication, it seems that Kasambika 1 is well on its way to making community-wide healthy changes.

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