In February, one of MRDF’s partners in Nepal, Treveni Bikas Samaj (TBS), began a new health and sanitation programme. Whilst TBS’s main focus is to improve the health of women living in the Banke District of Nepal, near the Indian border, the partner is now also helping to improve the sanitation of the community as a whole.
Listening to the community
According to a recent report, over 15,000 people do not have access to sanitation in Banke so TBS’s work here is vital. In Banke many communities live in low lying areas, which are prone to flooding and suffer from poor drainage and sanitation. Less than 2% of the population have toilets, so open defecation is a major problem and results in the spread of diseases, such as diarrhoea. One of the key factors is the lack of awareness in the community of the importance of sanitation as a whole. After consulting with the community TBS decided that, whilst women’s empowerment issues were still important, they would be able to provide more impact if they focused their work on health and sanitation.
As this was a new technical field for TBS, MRDF encouraged the partner to seek guidance from a specialist NGO. TBS approached Integrated Development Society (IDS) Nepal, a group that specialise in environmental sanitation. By co-ordinating with a much larger organisation than themselves, TBS have been able to learn a great deal. They have been offered training and also provided with resources, such as posters and pamphlets promoting good hygiene practise, to help them with their awareness-raising activities in the community.
IDS Nepal also trained TBS to use community participation to raise awareness of open defecation. Members of the community plant brightly coloured flags around the village wherever they find faeces. This visual approach forces the community to face an issue that is not spoken about and dramatically highlights the extent of the problem. In this way, TBS have inspired men and women from the communities to get involved in the project.
Nine months on, four communities have now set up their own sanitation campaigns and the hope is that as a result, there will be a reduction in the levels of disease caused by poor sanitation practices. Commenting on TBS’s project, Programme Manager Nick Burn said: ‘Sanitation is a striking need in this area as almost no households have latrines. It’s very encouraging to see how TBS have engaged the communities – we hope this awareness will mean that improving sanitation becomes a priority for all families.’