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July 21, 2017

Celebrating the End of Open Defecation: True Moments of Pride for Communities in Benin



Bio Gnosme, Chief of Wawate Village in front of his hygienic latrine, washing his hands.

Since January 2015, the Medical Care Development International (MCDI) - EAR G-Emergency (EGES) consortium has been implementing the Improved Access and Hygiene Practices in Rural Areas (PAPHyR) project in Benin, funded by the Global Sanitation Fund/WSSCC. PAPHyR has contracted with to fourteen local NGOs to bring the targeted communities to an Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and to promote improved hygiene and sanitation through the Community Led Sanitation (CLTS) approach. In June 2017, PAPHyR and the local organizations reached an important milestone by surpassing their target and certifying 1,315 communities as ODF - an impressive increase from the 354 villages certified at the end of March.

A common and vital element in CLTS is social solidarity where help and cooperation among the households in the community is key to igniting a change in sanitation behavior. CLTS focuses on social awakening that is encouraged by facilitators within or outside the community. During the first round of funding to local NGOs, the local organizations faced difficulties working with community leaders; Benin's rainy season also posed challenges with an array of logistical problems that comes with it. In order to reach the project's target for this first round of funding, PAPHyR awarded 3-month grant extensions to the local NGOs with a performance incentive: the amount of the last monthly payment would depend on the percentage of their target villages that achieved ODF status.

With this encouragement and increased training by PAPHyR and EGES, the project's original goal for the first round of funding (1,253 villages) was surpassed. In celebration of one of the villages, the PAPHyR team, with local NGO Action Pour La Promotion Des Initiatives Communautaires (APIC), attended the ODF ceremony for the village of Wawate. APIC received financing from PAPHyR to carry out CLTS in Wawate and other villages Wawate's ODF status was a result of the a transformation of the social contract between APIC and the Village Chief and other community leaders of the village.

As is customary, the Village Chief, Bio Gnosme, was invited to say a few words of welcome to the authorities, community members and guests. But immediately, the Assembly was surprised to find that instead of words of welcome, Gnosme was overtaken by a feeling of pride in the change of behaviors in the community regarding hygiene and sanitation, stating:

"Before, our village was dirty, and our children were regularly suffering from cholera. Because everything around us was dirty. Even the vegetables that we cultivated were contaminated with feces... We now know that the lack of hygiene and sanitation leads to illnesses and that diseases are expensive. Now we have the opportunity to spend our energy to make our village hygienic and save money."

This speech roused a loud round of applause from the village and the visiting PAPHyR and GSF delegates, demonstrating a strong sense of pride amongst the community. The health and economic impacts that Gnosme's village had been facing because of unsanitary conditions is by no means isolated - over one third of the world's population lacks access to an adequate toilet, and almost a billion people live in open defecation environments.

What Wawate and other villages have been able to achieve by working together is a more sanitary, hygienic and, ultimately, healthy community. It is an achievement of cooperation and initiative whenever a community such as Wawate reaches this milestone through CLTS. As the international development community continues on its journey to achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for the end of open defecation and reaching total sanitation, CLTS has been and will continue to prove to be an incredibly effective and sustainable tool in reaching this goal.

With such resounding success in the first round of funding, the PAPHyR project moves forward towards achieving the final 5-year goal of declaring over 7,000 villages ODF through subsequent rounds of funding for local organizations.





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