WSP-SA Workshop Islamabad

Activists set out to improve hygiene condition in villages
* Awareness, proper hygiene methods could easily prevent fatal diseases

By Jamil Khan | KARACHI

SHAMIM Azam, 28, was one of the dozens of natural activists who have decided to improve the overall sanitation conditions in the country’s villages, where defecating in the open results in deaths of 1.8 million children due to preventable deaths every year.
Creating awareness and assisting people in setting up proper lavatories and adopt proper hygiene methods could easily prevent fatal disease caused by fecal-oral contact.
In a three-day workshop recently held in Islamabad, Shamim Azam and dozens of other selected natural activists from different parts of the country shared their views as implementers of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme launched by the Water and Sanitation Programme-South Asia.
The workshop ‘Business Model Development Workshop for Barefoot Consultants’ conducted by water and sanitation specialist Irfan Saeed Alrai and was also attended by over two dozen natural activists (barefoot consultants) from Quetta, Mardan, Peshawar, Sanghar, Haripur, Umerkot, Gilgit and other parts of the country.
Shamim had started her mission of an open defecation-free environment with safe disposal of toxic liquids and solid wastes and promotion of health and hygiene practices along with a group of natural activists last year in Gojra, a union council of Tehsil Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, spread over a total of 70 villages. It was a project of the Society for Sustainable Development in collaboration of UNICEF that was later continued by the Water and Sanitation Programme-South Asia, she said.
“Initially we had focused on 212 schools scattered in union councils where we had educated the teachers as well as trained children to holding walks, painting contests and other activities,” she said.
She mentioned that before the 2005 earthquake, almost all schools had their toilets but not a single one was being used, as most of them were not connected properly to the sewerage system or any other hygienic mode of discharge. People living in villages were also not prepared to change their centuries-old tradition of defecating in open spaces but we had decided to educate them about the outcomes they had to face, she added.
“It was the earthquake that had exposed the non-utilisation conditions of washrooms as schoolchildren, who did not have this facility in their homes, hesitate to use lavatories in schools,” she said.
Shamim said that now they have the umbrella of Water and Sanitation Programme-South Asia and as CLTS natural activists, they have formed seven teams comprising of schoolteachers who regularly visit different villages in the area and try to make villagers adopt a hygienic lifestyle. Rajbai from Samaro in Umerkot, a typical peasant woman, also shared her experience saying that it was a group of female peasants who had dug up pit-latrine in their village for the first time as they were trained by an NGO, which further helped in promoting a hygienic lifestyle in the village.
Irfanullah, a councillor from Peshawar, described his experience of creating awareness in dozens of villages by distributing lavatories free of cost with the help of philanthropists.
“Due to the open defecation, our own children were become sick from various diseases on a regular basis and by educating villagers hygienic conditions, we managed to reap good results in a record three months,” he said. Muhammad Ibrahim Khan from Lucky Marwat said that he had mobilised his students and imparted training of hygienic among the locals. He also sought the help of MNAs, MPAs and nazims in the campaign to promote a healthy environment.
Shahjahan of Jamal Ghari in Mardan said that they had declared seven villages as open defecation-free in the last couple of months with the help of trained natural activists. “It was a remarkable achievement and the remaining 21 villages would be made open defecation-free in the next 3-4 months,” he said.
Initially, while expressing his views, Irfan Saeed Alrai said that the programme was launched with the aim to change the general behaviour to tackle sanitation-related issues especially in the rural areas of the country.
He also stressed that the cabinet had approved the first National Sanitation Policy in 2006 and it was need of the hour to implement this in the whole country.
He said that it was their dream that more then half of population would have potable water and sufficient lavatory facility till 2015.
“The mean estimated annual cost of natural and natural resource damage from inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene in Pakistan is estimated as Rs 112 billion or 1.8 percent of the GDP,” he stated.
During the briefing, he also shed light on national sanitation policy guidelines, achievements of CLTS in 2007-08 and said that in Sindh, with the support of SRSO, TRDP and NRSP, 203 community activists trained, 720 villages triggered and benefited a population of 504,000 and in Punjab 98 activists trained, CLTS triggered in 70 villages and benefited a population of 28,000. In NWFP, total 124 activists trained, triggered CLTS in 412 villages and benefited a population of 401,700 as in Balochistan, total 39 activists trained and triggered 19 villages and benefited a population of 10,640.
Furthermore, the workshop continued with three brainstorming sessions by Shehnaz Kapadia with natural activists by presenting the business model and seeking their inputs for developing a business model for emergence and sustainability of barefoot consultant in Pakistan.
-Published in Daily Times | Oct 21, 2008

~ by jamilkhan on October 23, 2008.

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