Ondingwanyama-While Namibia’s sanitation status is a thorn in the flesh, with only half the population having access to proper sanitation, government is striving towards declaring at least 180 villages in Ohangwena, Kavango West and East and Zambezi free from open defecation by December.
The programme will be rolled out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) and its implementing partners, the United Nations Children’ Fund (Unicef) and Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS), to declare at least 180 villages free from open defecation.
Currently, the Ondigwanyama village in Ohangwena Region was declared the first free from open defecation village in the country after constructing toilets at all 68 households in the village.
“A village is declared defecation-free when every household in the village has a toilet, with superstructure to provide privacy and a hand-washing facility with water and soap or ash available,” explained Unicef country representative Micaela Maques de Sousa.
The pit latrines were constructed using local materials, including used tyres, sticks and plastic bags – with blankets to shield them, but the villagers want to be assisted financially to put up permanent structures, because many are not durable.
Meanwhile, 64 villages where people were trained to implement the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme are also expected to be declared free from open defecation in due course.
The CLTS programme will next be rolled out to 60 villages in Mpungu in Kavango West, four in Kavango East in Mashare and 58 others in Zambezi.
According to statistics presented, only 17 percent of the rural community has access to proper toilet facilities, while 74 percent lack any toilet facilities.
About 19 percent of the people in informal settlements also relieve themselves in the open.
According to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Anna Shiweda, around half of all cases of under-five child death and sickness were attributed to poor hygiene and sanitation.
She also noted that 24 percent of those under the age of five years are stunted and said this was due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Poor feeding practices, poor maternal nutrition and poor sanitation are known to be the main causes of stunting in children.
De Sousa said the celebration at Ondingwanyama was important as it helped to demystify such important topics of conversation. She said the problem had been neglected for too long, because people are not comfortable to talk it.
“Having this candid discussion about defecation will help all of us to see the value of ensuring that the health, safety and dignity of the people maintained when open defecation is eliminated,” said de Sousa.
“Sadly, as we remain quiet about it, families, particularly those in the poor areas in the country, have difficulty in maintaining good levels of domestic hygiene and sanitation,” de Soussa said.
She urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to lead sanitation talks in parliament, whereupon the deputy minister replied that government is hard at work to address sanitation and hygiene in the country.
“To this end, access to potable water supply and sanitation services have been enshrined in key policies, developmental plans and strategies,” Shiweda noted.
Also speaking at the event, former minister of environment and tourism Uahekua Herunga said Ondingwanyama bears testimony that community-led commitment and determination can achieve the impossible and elevate people to greater heights.