Sanitation innovation in Mozambique

In Mozambique, an innovative programme overhauls sanitation practices

Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

‘Community Led Total Sanitation’ initiative

CHIBWE, Mozambique, 24 May 2010 – A circle of women dance to the beat of drums in the morning sun, a crowd of adults and children watching from under tall, leafy trees. After a lengthy roll of beats, the dancing stops and the circle opens to welcome visitors – a group of water-and-sanitation experts.

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In Chibwe village, located in Mozambique’s north-western Tete province, open defecation is common. With only about 39 per cent of the country’s estimated 22 million people using improved sanitation facilities, diseases like diarrhoea and cholera are common.

Today, however, the village is implementing a new ‘Community Led Total Sanitation’ (CLTS) programme with the help of UNICEF and its partners. Through CLTS, Chibwe residents will spearhead their own sanitation activities and learn how to keep diseases at bay.

Addressing sanitation

Following the welcoming festivities, UNICEF Mozambique WASH Specialist Americo Muianga met with Chibwe residents in a quieter setting.

“How do you say ‘faeces’?” Mr. Muianga asked. Giggles erupted from the crowd, along with the answer: “matudzi.” Pleased with the humour – which helps to lighten the mood – Mr. Muianga initiated a conversation about sanitation.

In villages like Chibwe, CLTS often begins with humour and a game-like exercise. Volunteers from the crowd draw a map of their village with sticks in the sand. White powder made from maize, or corn, defines the major landmarks: the school, the water point, the road to the nearest clinic and the local church. More volunteers are asked to stand at the point on the map where they live. Then they are given grey ash and asked to mark where they defecate.

“Calculate the quantity of excreta for each week, month and year for each household,” said Mr. Muianga. “Then you start discussing the quantity of excreta and where it goes.”

The tabulation is drawn on white butcher paper and held up for everyone to see – 84,720 piles of faeces annually from 93 households.

Awareness and action

The simulation – along with the shocking numbers – aims to help residents understand the scope of their sanitation needs. Villagers are asked to visit the real excreta sites, where they learn how human waste contaminates the local water supply and contributes to breeding grounds for flies and mosquitoes.

Along with its non-governmental partner, World Vision, and the Mozambique Ministry of Public Works and Housing, UNICEF is working to raise awareness of safe sanitation and hygiene in 18 districts across the country. The work is part of a programme known as the ‘One Million Initiative’ – funded by UNICEF and the Dutch Government – which aims to provide safe water and sanitation to a million people in Mozambique by 2013.

In Chibwe, Fatima Chipendo, a grandmother of nine children, has volunteered to set up a village sanitation committee. Sanitation is an issue close to her heart – her tenth grandchild died as a result of diarrhoea.

“It is important for us to improve the health of our children,” said Ms. Chipendo. While her house has one of the village’s few toilets, she added that everyone in the village should also have one.

Community participation

The sanitation committee is an integral part of the CLTS model. Unlike traditional sanitation programmes – which typically distribute outsides materials to build latrines – the committee helps design latrines that can be made using available materials, so that all families can afford to build one. The community-led model also helps latrines gain social importance and encourages innovation.

“When we develop programmes in which the beneficiaries don’t participate, they end up not being sustainable,” said Cadmiel Muthemba, Mozambique’s Minister of Public Works and Housing. Community participation, he said, “ensures ownership of the programme.”

Now in its third year, the One Million Initiative has reached hundreds of thousands in Mozambique with improved sanitation conditions and access to safe water.

“We realize this is worth it,” said Alberto Saguate, a father of six from neighbouring Nhaussau village. Through the CLTS programme, his community built outhouses for more than 170 households in recent months. “Our children are healthier, and we have not had cholera in this village since we built the toilets,” he said.

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