When Tom Omulo lost his 3 – year – old daughter from cholera he didn’t know that the cloud of sorrow that engulfed his family was going to be a dawn not only to his family but the entire district of Nyando where he hails from; till he attended a ministry of public health and sanitation seminar on Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in August 2010.
It’s from this meeting that he came to understand that poor sanitation is a breeding ground for cholera and other water borne diseases. “I come to realize that cholera is caused from eating our own faeces as they find their way to our drinking water and food stuff,” he says.
The pain of losing a daughter from a preventable disease ignited a passion in him to join with other volunteers in the campaign against “open defecation” – that is, using the outdoors as a latrine. Defecating outdoors is common in the entire Nyando district and particularly his Kochogo location which borders Lake Victoria and is surrounded by the River Nyando.
“Before the Open Defection Free (ODF) campaign kicked off in August last year open defecation was rampant and high death rate of children under five years old from water borne related diseases was high,” Omulo recounts. “I went back to the community and started raising awareness for the need to build latrines with locally available materials. I was very much encouraged with the positive response our people showed as they embraced the message with a determination of building latrines”.
That was six months ago. Now, Kochogo location with 10,101 households, is 100 percent ODF, Omulo says.
Let us take a visit to another village, Kosano at Nyando District where another natural leader Mary Monari comes from.
Mary was beaten by the ODF bug when the ministry of public health and sanitation and CLTS activists came to trigger the community. “I was being annoyed by the environment that was littered with human faeces everywhere. There was an urgent need for the people to espouse behavior change – by being told the consequences of open defecation,” Mary says.
Before the ODF campaign the village was 30 percent ODF. But with the community realizing how ODF is important they are now 100 percent ODF.
Nyando District Public Officer (DPHO), Nicholas Makotsi says the district with its population of 367,898 and 68,371 household has registered an impressive response towards the ODF campaign. Before the campaign there were 32 percent ODF households but within the six months the percentage has scaled to 63.8, with 43,307 latrines build across the district.
Makotsi adds: “the ODF campaign has come with a package deal; childhood infections have gone down, example measles, pneumonia and malaria. Through the CLTS it has been easy for medical practitioners to meet the people as they often gather to evaluate their progress in regard to ODF campaign”.
The DPHO says that the economic status of the people involved is soaring from the lower sickness cases. School attendance is higher as well academic performance as a result of lower infections. There is a safer water supply – since faeces is not getting into the water sources. There are reduced worm infections and a marked improvement in the growth of children.
DPHO, Ambrose Fwamba from Busia county with five districts (Bunyala, Samia, Nambale, Butula and Busia) says impressive progress has been made so far with 265 villages out of 329 now ODF. The county is aspiring to achieve ODF status by 31st July 2011.
Fwamba says the ministry of public health and sanitation has verified 71 latrines and the Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) has certified 38 of them. KWAHO is an institution which is third part financed by UNICEF for the certification of ODF latrines.
To sustain the momentum of the ODF campaign to conclusive end, people have celebrated their success. In Busia county 10 villages have had celebrations where they install billboards with ODF messages, award certificates to CLTS committee members for their achievements and award of appreciation to natural leaders in terms of trips, trainings and public acknowledgement.
Tom and Mary are among the natural leaders who will be accompanying the ministry of public health and sanitation officials to Rwanda for an international conference on health and sanitation in recognition of their enthusiasm towards the ODF campaign.
Fwamba points out that on the ODF campaign they have a sanitation ladder programme that is guiding them. Latrines built from locally available materials incorporate a cover over the aperture. Domestic ash is then regularly applied to control fly breeding and break the transmission cycle of the fecal-oral route. This helps to prevent the transmission of cholera, typhoid, dysentery and diarrhoeal among other diseases. The up-grading ladder involves the building of permanent latrines.
The ODF campaign involves treating water before drinking using aquatabs (chlorine tablets), water guard, or having a chlorine dispenser at the source. Hand washing with soap facility is build by the latrine.
Fwamba says primary school children have been a great agent of behaviour change and dissemination of information in the ODF campaign. Dr Kamal Kar the founder of of the CLTS initiative was in Western and Nyanza province in 2008 in 6 districts. He is the innovator of the CLTS approach and said: “we either continue eating faeces or we build latrines”.
World Health Organization Representative, Dr Addullahi Jack said during the national launch of the ODF campaign at Nairobi:
“A new dawn is here, since “Kenya is a leader in many aspects in the region, and therefore it is unacceptable that thousands of Kenyans continue to relive themselves in the open and contaminating their water sources. A concerted effort is required to eliminate this practice immediately. It is going to be challenging, but with the leadership of the ministry and with other partners coming on board, I believe that an ODF rural Kenya can be achieved by 2013.”
Community Led Total Sanitation is a movement which “triggers” local action on sanitation throughout the world including Ghana, Haiti, Bolivia and Indonesia. The movement has received support from organisations such as UNICEF, WSP, Plan, WaterAid and SNV.