More villages get toilets

Access to sanitation is elusive for many in Namibia but a new programme has helped four villages solve this problem.

11 December 2018 | Health

Although two northern villages were declared open-defecation-free (ODF) this week, an estimated 1.15 million Namibians, or half the population, still don't have access to proper toilets.

Lack of safe sanitation, water and hygiene can be deadly, especially to children. About half of the deaths of Namibian children under five years old are attributed to preventable diseases caused by poor hygiene.

This was part of the message delivered by Anna Shiweda, deputy minister of agriculture, at an event celebrating the ODF status of Eenyama and Okakango Konduda villages in the Eenhana constituency of the Ohangwena Region.

At Eenyama, 33 households consisting of 270 people now have access to proper toilets. At Okakango Konduda the same goes for 26 households consisting of 268 people. Another village, Ondilinawa, achieved ODF status earlier this year.

Ondingwanyama village was declared free of open defecation last year.

Shiweda said another consequence of poor sanitation, hygiene and water supply is the fact that 24% of Namibian children under five are stunted.

“Namibia faces a sanitation challenge,” Shiweda said, pointing out that an estimated 76% of rural people relieve themselves in the veld.

Open defecation varies between different regions, she said, with 35% of rural Hardap residents and 80% of Ohangwena residents living without access to toilets.

In urban areas, open defecation is estimated at 20%, mostly in informal settlements.

The villages that have attained ODF status did so by means of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, a behaviour change approach recommended in the National Sanitation Strategy of 2008 which was first introduced to Namibia in 2014.

The programme is being rolled out by the agriculture ministry and its implementing partners - the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS).

It is also supported by the health and urban and rural development ministries and the Ohangwena regional council.

Through CLTS, communities are empowered to conduct their own sanitation appraisal, make their own conclusions and take action, such as building toilets by using locally available materials and other resources.

In August, Namibian Sun reported that according to a State of Hygiene in Southern Africa report, only 15% of Namibians have access to a basic latrine, while 3% have limited access to shared toilets and 7% live in unimproved hygienic conditions.

It said 75% of residents still practised open defecation, contrary to the 50% number cited this week by the deputy minister.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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