Monday, 30 March 2015

Sanitation in Sumba – improving day by day

- Nick Baker, Communications and Knowledge Management Officer

Sanitarian Dangga Mesa attends a village meeting in Sumba Barat Daya.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

It’s an unusually busy morning in Matapywu village on the island of Sumba (NTT). Heads of family have been called together for an important meeting. Seats are taken, coffee is served, and the topic is announced: toilets.

Meetings on this unusual subject are now quite common around the island. Matapywu is just one of many villages that recently underwent a triggering session supported by UNICEF. These workshops aim to end open defecation practices.

Now it’s time to check progress. A sanitarian, Dangga Mesa, discusses developments since she held the triggering session a few months ago. Dangga seems pleased on the impact it had.

Village representatives tell Dangga how they were “shamed” and “disgusted” when they learned at the workshop how easily bacteria from faeces can enter the food chain. Many villagers have since built, or are in the process of building, their first toilets.

Dangga says that open defecation is a critical issue for the children of Matapywu and throughout the country. “Diarrhoea is a very serious disease among children under five years of age,” she says. “Bad sanitation is one of the main causes of diarrhoea so we have to seriously address it.”

“I’m so happy because the number of people with a toilet has increased,” Dangga says. “Our next goal is to get this village 100 per cent open defecation-free.”

Especially the children

Kepala desa (chief) Soleman Bili Ngongo chairs a village meeting on open defecation.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

Soleman Bili Ngongo is the kepala desa (chief) of Matapywu. He was unaware of the health problems associated with open defecation prior to the triggering session. Now it’s one of his top priorities.

There’s 3,237 people in Soleman’s village. “Before, most of them would defecate all over the place. The faeces would contaminate our food and water,” Soleman says.

This isn’t unusual in Indonesia. In fact, the country has more than 54 million people who defecate in the open. That’s the second highest number of any country in the world, second only to India.

But with the help of UNICEF, things are changing in Matapywu. “The triggering session was very successful,” Soleman says. “After only a few weeks, families started to build latrines.”

UNICEF will continue to assist Soleman and other kepala desas around Sumba monitor open defecation and address the challenges ahead.

Soleman wants all 3,237 members of the village to be healthy and have the best chance at life, especially the children.

A safer future

Three year old Adventin will grow up with a toilet.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

Lucia Dada Kaka is one of many mothers on Sumba who became concerned about her family’s welfare after attending a triggering session.

“Before the workshop we would defecate in a nearby field or sometimes at night we would go just outside our house,” she says. “But then we learnt about all the issues of open defecation.”

The health of her daughter, three year old Adventin, was a big motivator to build a new toilet. Her husband is currently putting the finishing touches on it.

“We’re doing it for our children. We want them to be safe from health problems,” Lucia says.