Two informal settlements on verge of open-defecation-free status

Last week, the settlements welcomed a team of national inspectors to showcase the progress they have made since 2019 to improve sanitation and cleanliness in their communities.

23 March 2021 | Health

JANA-MARI SMITH









WINDHOEK



Two communities on the outskirts of Windhoek are anxiously waiting to hear if they have achieved open-defecation-free (ODF) status, a possible first for a Windhoek informal settlement.

Last week, Nalitungwe and Hadino Hinshongwa informal settlements welcomed a team of national ODF inspectors to showcase the progress they have made since 2019 to improve sanitation and cleanliness in their communities.

In late 2020, both communities were able to self-verify their areas as ODF, the first step in the process to obtain official certification.

If successful, their ODF status will mark a major milestone for Windhoek informal settlements, lighting the way for other communities.

Informal settlements in Namibia have long faced municipal neglect, with residents forced to use open spaces such as riverbeds and other remote spaces as toilets.

Lack of water and electricity, safety and security and basic hand-washing facilities as well as exposure to heat and cold are hallmarks of life in these settlements.

With no basic hand-washing facilities and human defecation taking place in open spaces amid the sprawling settlements, hepatitis E spread quickly, engulfing communities since 2017.



Facelift

“In Nalitungwe, the basic cleanliness of the community has improved dramatically in terms of waste management and sanitation. They understand they need to build and share toilets. General hygiene has improved. Previously rubbish was all over, toilet paper in the riverbed. But now, we are proud to say the community have obtained an understanding of living in a clean environment,” Foibe Silvanus, the Moses //Garoëb Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) coordinator, said last week.

She underlined that the facelift has not only improved general hygiene and cleanliness in the neighbourhoods, but has reduced cases of illness, especially diarrhoea among children and hepatitis E.

Berthold Haingura, the CLTS coordinator for the Samora Machel constituency, said the communities have undergone a dramatic transformation.

“You can see the change before and after. They have built their own sanitation facilities, and the waste is managed with a new dumpsite.”

The municipality sends a truck once a week to collect the rubbish, another milestone for the community.

Haingura pointed to a riverbed nearby that is crossed every day by children and adults, but which was previously filled with rubbish, including human faeces.

“It was so disgusting, you could not cross here. The CLTS intervention has brought these changes where people manage their waste. It’s a great job."

He underlined that an ODF certification would have a ripple effect, motivating other communities to push for their own ODF status.



‘Moment of pride’

To be declared ODF, all households have to have access to a clean toilet built according to specification, in addition to a hand-washing facility. Other requirements include environments free of human faeces and rubbish, sewage water and general cleanliness.

The CLTS campaigns were first launched in 2019 by the Development Workshop Namibia (DWN) with the Namibia Chamber of Environment and technical support from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund alongside community leaders and volunteers.

CLTS uses a bottom-up approach to sensitise residents of the dangers of open defecation and to encourage the construction of latrines and rubbish dumps, as well as overall hygiene.

CLTS community volunteers played a crucial role, visiting households to advise them on hygiene and sanitation, while the DWN built demonstration sanitation centres to help residents understand the requirements to build their own toilets.

DWN project coordinator Sheya Timo Gotlieb said the community, alongside CLTS partners, is excited to hear the outcome of the verification process.

"It has been a very successful transformation for them. They live here, they travel to other communities and see the difference between their block and the other areas. I think it will be a moment of pride.”

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