Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A better future – ending open defecation in Sumba

- By Nick Baker, Communications and Knowledge Management Officer - 

One year old Juan with his new toilet. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

SUMBA BARAT DAYA, March 2015 – Juan Ngongo, currently just one year old, will be the first person in his family to grow up with a toilet.

Juan lives in the village of Watu Kaula on the island of Sumba (NTT). For generations, his family would defecate in or around a small river that runs just beside their house.

But not anymore. Juan’s family recently attended a triggering session in their village that was facilitated by UNICEF. During these events, health workers demonstrate how easily bacteria from faeces can enter the food chain and cause a raft of health problems.

These health problems include diarrhoea and pneumonia – which are chief contributors to more than 370 under-five deaths per day in Indonesia.

Juan’s mother, Yuliana, says the session was a powerful experience. “It made us aware of all sorts of health risks we were taking with open defecation. So we decided to build a toilet,” she says.

There’s more than 750 households in the village of Watu Kaula. Representatives from most households attended the triggering session and many committed to building a toilet. So Juan’s story is just one of many.

“Now I feel safe. Now I feel that Juan will be safe,” Yuliana says.

Empowering villages

Sanitarian Delsiana Bora conducts workshops on open defecation.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

Delsiana Bora is a sanitarian – a local health worker who specialises in sanitation and hygiene – in Sumba Barat Daya (Southwest Sumba). It’s thanks to her that Juan and other children in Watu Kaula will now have access to a toilet.

Delsiana is one of many sanitarians in Sumba who receives vocational support from UNICEF. UNICEF assists Delsiana and her colleagues conduct triggering sessions and follow progress in each village.

“There is very low awareness of the health impacts associated with open defecation around this area. People just don’t realise the risks they are taking,” she says.

“I try to empower villages to solve this problem by themselves. We show them how easy it is to build a toilet out of household materials. Then we make sure there’s effective monitoring at the village level to check that people really use their new toilets regularly,” she says.

In Delsiana’s office is a large chart of the 10 villages she works at. She explains how each column on the chart represents the number and quality of toilets that have been constructed. 

UNICEF has helped coordinate a programme to train Delsiana and other sanitarians use a SMS text message system to monitor progress in the villages. Information is sent via SMS to a central database where it is collected by the district health office.

Juan’s new toilet adds to the impressive results in Watu Kaula – another success story for Delsiana and her team.

An ambitious target

Dominggus Manna is trying to end open defecation in Sumba Barat Daya.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

Dominggus Manna has quite a task ahead of him. As Head of the Environment Health Section in the Sumba Barat Daya District Government, he oversees sanitation practices in 131 villages. And he wants all of them to be free of open defecation in four years.

UNICEF is helping district representatives like Dominggus meet such targets by convening open defecation working groups in Sumba. The working groups bring together various levels of government and other stakeholders to assess the best ways of addressing open defecation.

“Currently around 50 per cent of villages practice open defecation,” he says. “But over the past year we’ve already increased the number of families with access to a toilet from 36 per cent to 45 per cent. So progress is looking good.”