By Michael Liswaniso
The construction of 146 ventilated improved pit latrines (VIP) in Opuwo is nearly complete. The VIP toilets, built at a cost of N$335 150, are an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) and is an effort by the ministry to stem an outbreak of cholera.
Opuwo made headlines in 2006 after more than 400 suspected cholera cases were reported at the state hospital.
The toilet construction project started last September and ended on schedule after seven months.
According to Joice Mashamba, the regional health inspector for the MOHSS and the overall regional project coordinator, the project had four components.
Apart from the VIP toilets, the project also dealt with components like community mobilization and health education, clean-up campaigns and the construction of a public toilet at the prominent Epupa informal market on the township boundary.
Opuwo town has no public toilets.
Mashamba said most components of the project went well, apart from the public toilet that is yet to be completed.
“The toilet is about 90 percent complete and the remaining work which was stopped by heavy rains during the last season will be completed very soon,” he said, adding that once completed it will be handed over to the Opuwo Town Council for maintenance and cleaning.
Mashamba noted that given the 50-50 percent share in the construction of the VIP toilets, the ministry in conjunction with other stakeholders could only do the groundwork and provide a VIP toilets super structure, while the community is expected to complete the walls with materials of their choice, among them corrugated iron sheets, plastics, poles and even mud.
To this end, only 63 out of 146 VIP toilets have successfully been completed with walls but, Mashamba added, even without walls, some residents are already using the toilets especially at night.
“It all has to do with community cooperation for them to complete their structures and for us to get this 100 percent community cooperation is a headache and a big constraint,” said Mashamba.
He however said with continued health education, community participation and cooperation is slowly becoming a reality.
“We cannot let cholera to be establishing itself in Opuwo every year – there is a major need for intervention,” he said.
Some residents that New Era spoke to welcomed the idea but bemoaned that the VIP toilets are too small, adding that the soon to be opened public toilet at Epupa informal settlement should be connected to the se-werage system.
“You cannot even stretch your legs nicely when you are in these VIP toilets because they are just too small,” bemoaned one resident.
Opuwo has reported the highest suspected cholera cases in the country, standing at more than 2 000 suspected cases since the beginning of the year.
Most of the first suspected cases were reported at Okanguati in the Epupa constituency, some 120 km north of Opuwo.