By Hyewon Lee, ChildFund Korea Field Officer in Bolivia
Today is World Toilet Day, which aims to create awareness of the problems stemming from poor sanitation in countries worldwide. One in three people — 2.5 billion — do not have a clean, private toilet, including those in many countries where ChildFund works. Today’s post spotlights progress in a Bolivian community.
Children in the municipality of Sapahaqui, Bolivia, once used 1-meter-deep holes as their toilets at school. Often, they preferred to go outside instead of visiting the dirty, smelly restrooms. Other schools didn’t even have indoor facilities.
Families also didn’t always wash their hands after going to the bathroom, mainly because water is very scarce and valuable; most people had no water sources other than small streams and springs. Some communities were lucky to be near water, but other families had to go a long way to fetch it. When they did get water, it was just enough for washing clothes, cooking and watering the fruit trees, which are their main income source. Many families knew that basic sanitation habits were important to maintaining good health, but it was a luxury most just couldn’t afford.
As a result of the lack of basic sanitation infrastructure and hygiene habits, the infant mortality rate was 68 deaths per 1,000 infants in 2010 in the municipality of Sapahaqui, according to Bolivia’s national statistics office. Diarrhea and other diseases related to poor hygiene were causes of many childhood deaths.
However, we’re seeing changes in Sapahaqui nowadays.
“This is how you wash your hands,” exclaims 10-year-old Eliana as she proudly demonstrates cleaning from palms to fingers to nails. (Watch the video below for an example of how children have learned proper hand-washing techniques.) ChildFund Bolivia staff members now oversee hand-washing centers in almost every school in Sapahaqui, teaching children about good hygiene habits and providing sanitation kits.
Schoolchildren now wash their hands at least once a day at school, with clean water provided through the SODIS method, which purifies water by hanging plastic bottles in the sun for several hours. Since it is so much easier to get access to clean water, children and families in Sapahaqui are now able to use water to practice basic sanitation habits, even in the harsh dry seasons when it barely rains and the streams dry out.
With the help and participation of community members and the local government, we also have built or improved the school bathrooms. A teacher from the community Saca Saca says, “Children are so happy about the new bathrooms that they just don’t want to come out from there. I can already notice that hand-washing corners and new bathrooms are affecting children’s health, because less and less of them catch cold and have fleas.”
ChildFund Bolivia will continue this water and basic sanitation project here until 2015. Our goal is that fewer children will suffer from diseases that can be easily prevented by practicing basic sanitation habits, and that families will have a better, cleaner and safer living environment in Sapahaqui.
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Each Nov. 19, World Toilet Day is observed as reminder that 2.6 billion people lack access to toilets and proper sanitation. This year, sanitation is a particular worry in the Philippines where families have been living in a tent city for several months after floods submerged their homes.
In rural areas of the Philippines, toilets – when you can find them –
consist of just a basic bowl with no lift-up seat. These are usually made of ceramic, but among poorer communities, toilets are often made of concrete. Water closets are rare, mainly because the local water supply is irregular. Even where there’s water in the tap, many people prefer to flush manually using a pail, claiming it saves more water than a modern flush.
For 297 Filipino families currently living at the relocation tent city at Marianville, located in the Laguna province town of Bay [Ba-e], even the rough, concrete toilets would be preferable, as the camp’s makeshift latrines offer only rudimentary sanitation.
Heavy monsoon rains inundated the Philippine capital of Manila and surrounding locales in early August. Floodwater from Manila drained into Laguna Lake, south of the capital, swelling it to dangerous levels. Simultaneous with Manila’s recovery, towns like Bay were submerged in water, chest-deep in many areas. Rice fields became lakes and homes drowned in water that quickly turned dark and septic as the flood lingered. Many families had no choice but to evacuate to designated shelters. From there, they were moved to tent camps where they’d wait out the floods, which would recede in the sun, but would quickly fill again when it rained.
Many children reside in the tent community at Marianville. For the past several months, ChildFund has responded with emotional and psychological support activities through Child-Centered Spaces set up at the camp. Children’s safety and protection remains paramount as families endure the long wait to return home.
ChildFund’s focus on child protection is doubly important in irregular circumstances such as disaster, according to Hubert Par, a ChildFund sponsor relations officer who also serves on the Emergency Response Team. “Children are especially vulnerable in crowded tent camps, particularly as the toilets are common [not private], and are often constructed from available materials,” Par says.
Since summer, ChildFund has worked with its local partner to train first responders, local authorities and youth volunteers to educate children and families living in the tent community on simple steps for keeping children safe, especially when nature calls.
ChildFund has worked with camp managers to make sure separate latrines were set up for males and females, with neither facility located more than 50 meters from the camp proper. “We also made sure camp managers and residents kept the discipline of never sending a child to the restrooms alone. Children should be accompanied by a caregiver when going to the common latrines,” says Par. “We also inform them of mechanisms by which they can report any child protection issues that may arise,” he adds.
Kerzon, 16-year-old youth volunteer, has become a strong advocate for child protection, in addition to his daily response work in the camp, and his duties as a local youth council representative. “As a Child-Centered Space volunteer, I’m proud not just of being able to help, but also because I’m able to share practical knowledge, specifically about child protection,” he says.
Although families long to return to and repair their homes, flood levels remain up to 3 feet deep in Bay. Although the comfort of home and a private restroom must wait, ChildFund is working to ensure that the camp’s plywood and plastic common latrines are safe for children.
If you would like to help children around the world who lack a proper toilet, please consider a gift to the Children’s Greatest Needs fund.
Americans take their bathrooms for granted, but for 2.6 billion people worldwide, a toilet is a luxury. To raise awareness of global sanitation needs, Nov. 19 is designated World Toilet Day.
“Children often suffer the most because of limited access to clean water and poor sanitation,” said Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s vice president for program development. “Poor sanitary conditions lead to more disease and less food, and precious family income must be spent on purchasing water or dealing with the effects of illness.”
Responding to water and sanitation issues is a primary component of ChildFund’s work to help children around the world.
Beginning in 2008, ChildFund helped Nam Phong, a village of 3,600 in Vietnam, construct latrines and water supply systems. Community members were also taught to adopt hygienic practices, which helped clean up streams and roads in the community.
In Timor-Leste, where 70 percent of people have no access to sanitary bathrooms, ChildFund built latrines, a community bathroom and provided hygiene training to children and families. In Afghanistan, we are partnering with UNICEF to teach children about sanitation and hand washing. ChildFund Afghanistan has assisted some 6,000 former IDPs (internally displaced people), refugees and vulnerable families lacking quality housing and bathrooms. We’ve provided building materials and a small economic incentive to help families construct a two-room house and latrine.
An initiative to install latrines in elementary schools in Mexico provides students privacy and protection, increasing their likelihood of staying in school. Girls in particular are less likely to attend school if there are no bathrooms.
“Improved sanitation in schools, better access to clean water and knowledge about how to prevent waterborne disease helps ensure the health and development of the world’s children,” Bouchie said.
Celebrate World Toilet Day and help flush out poverty.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Today is World Toilet Day. And if that very thought causes you to laugh, that’s OK. We need more good-humored, regular people on the planet.
After you enjoy a few jokes and bad puns, you actually should be in the right frame of mind to think seriously about a world problem.
Some 2.6 billion people (nearly half of the world’s population) don’t have access to toilets and proper sanitation, according to the 2010 Update by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.
Diarrheal diseases kill five times as many children in the developing world as HIV/AIDS, UNICEF reports.
Lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection, according to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
Each of these facts is daunting on its own, yet ChildFund has found that lack of proper sanitation also contributes to poverty perpetuation. When children, especially girls, do not have access to adequate bathroom facilities at school, they don’t attend class. Who knew that a lack of toilets contributes to illiteracy?
When young children attend schools without latrines or even soap and water to wash their hands, disease spreads quickly. Attending school shouldn’t be a health hazard. But for so many children, that’s exactly the risk they face. All because they don’t have access to sanitary facilities. Conditions are often no better for them at home, where untreated sewage pollutes villages and water sources.
So, on World Toilet Day, it comes down to action. Take a stand against disease and poverty by educating your friends and families about the importance of toilets. Even better, make a commitment to help fund a project like ChildFund’s effort to build six latrines for an elementary school in Mexico. The latrines will greatly improve sanitation and privacy, while reducing the risk of disease for boys and girls who just want to learn.