Print Edition - 2014-04-27  |  Free the Words

Next to godliness

  • Commitment from all stakeholders is needed to achieve sanitation for all by 2017
Next to godliness

Apr 26, 2014-

There is less than two years to go to achieve the targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and globally, 2.6 billion people still do not use improved sanitation. In Nepal, about 40 percent of the total population does not have access to toilets, as claimed by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Access to toilets in Nepal is rare and actual use is even lower. Open-air defecation is rampant throughout the country, particularly in the Tarai. This practice badly contaminates water bodies and puts public health at risk. As per the World Health Organisation, children under the age of five die more from water-borne diseases due to poor hygienic and sanitary conditions. Because of its adverse effects on public health and the environment, the Government of Nepal has set a national target to provide basic water supply and sanitation facilities to all by the year 2017.

There is direct relationship between water supply, sanitation and health (WASH). Consumption of unsafe drinking water, improper disposal of human excreta and a lack of personal and food hygiene are the major causes of many diseases in the community. Nepal continues to bear a loss of some Rs 10 billion each year in terms of health expenses, loss of productivity and adverse effects on tourism due to poor environmental conditions. Even among disadvantaged communities, children and women are the most affected. This has thus been a great setback to the dignity, identity and pride of such communities.

Community approaches

Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and School-led Total Sanitation (SLTS) are two approaches currently underway to promote behavioural changes in sanitation and hygiene practices. They focus on collective action to put a halt to the practice of open-air defecation while creating a clean and hygienic environment. Simultaneously, they help improve hygienic practices, solid waste management, waste water disposal and protection and maintenance of drinking water sources.

Both CLTS and SLTS have been found to be very effective, and quite popular too. As per the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS), support for the programmes has been such that more than 1,200 VDCs and nine districts have been declared Open-Defecation Free (ODF). Such programmes, since they are run by the communities themselves, are effective in building social awareness when it comes to keeping the environment clean and the safe handling of household waste and drinking water. However, it is necessary to focus and replicate this type of community-led effort in the Eastern and Central Tarai and the hills of the Mid and Far West.

All stakeholder approach

As a result of improved sanitation and hygiene practices, positive results within the community/VDC/districts have seen a reduction in sanitation and hygiene-related diseases, which ultimately increased the morbidity and mortality of infants and the infirm. Additionally, new technologies in sanitation like ecological sanitation and the promotion of organic fertilisers, along with nutrition activities, are being practiced in parts of the country.

Still, strong commitment from the government, as well as all stakeholders, to achieve the national target of sanitation for all is required. Policy approaches must also be cleared up. There is still confusion concerning subsidies for the construction of toilets in the household in the Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan 2011. From past experience, the subsidy policy has not proven effective because it does not ensure ownership and does not affect long-term behavioural change.

Nepal is a Technical Officer at the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage

Published: 27-04-2014 09:17

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