In 2016, Carolyne Juma and her family in Bondo Sub County, Siaya County did not have a toilet. Their only option was to defecate in bushes, open fields, or near a river. Given that the locations often changed, they did not have a fixed place to wash their hands. This led to Carolyne’s family suffering often from multiple waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, typhoid and cholera. Carolyne’s family was not the only one.
During the same period, 1,359 out of the 2,245 villages – nearly half – in Siaya County were targeted for community-led total sanitation (CLTS). This means that each family in a village is sensitized on the importance of observing hygiene, having adequate toilet facilities, and setting up hand washing stations in the home. In addition, a KIWASH household baseline survey indicated that 13.2% of the population in Siaya County practiced open defecation, with only 38.5% of the rural population having access to improved sanitation facilities. Improved sanitation facilities are ones that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact, often with a concrete or platform.
Based on these statistics, KIWASH committed to help 3,017 households in 150 villages construct latrines and nearby hand washing facilities. More importantly, KIWASH ran a campaign to educate families on the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene to their health and livelihood. Overcoming the cultural or social hurdles to using improved facilities is often the most challenging aspect of improving hygiene and sanitation practices. But KIWASH’s efforts, together with that of the community and other partners, paid off.
In April, KIWASH, the Ministry of Health, private sector partners and Siaya County government held an event to mark the momentous occasion as Siaya Governor H.E. Colonel Rasanga declared the county open defecation free. KIWASH had a booth to reinforce the hygiene and sanitation messages, such as the importance of using the new latrines and washing hands afterward.
Mary Olute, the Siaya County Executive for Health, highlighted the county government’s support in the adoption of proper sanitation and hygiene. “For a long time, Siaya has been associated with disease outbreaks such as cholera. However, if we all embraced the use of latrines, practice hand washing with soap and have safe drinking water, then we will not be associated with such outbreaks again,” she said.
Carolyne Juma knows all too well what this news means to her family. “Now I know that I live in a very safe environment and diseases like cholera are now under control. We have seen the benefits of hand washing and I want to urge everybody to follow the best hygiene practices to sustain this status. Those who plan to put up new homes should first construct a latrine and the Ministry of Health should enforce this. We need to keep a clean environment to have a health community,” she said.