- Category: Sanitation Features
- Published on 02 February 2016
- Hits: 454
By: World Health Organisation
Building latrines and changing behaviours means keeping people safe from disease, as the WHO discovered in Mali
Two years ago, Hamidou Samakan, chief of the village of Yarou Plateau in Mali, noticed significant changes in the neighbouring village of Gouna. The village was clean and there were no faeces to be seen. People were building affordable latrines, sweeping common areas, and chlorinating their drinking water.
Back in Hamidou’s village, people were still defecating in the open. Few households had latrines, and diarrhoea and under-nutrition were common.
Gouna was participating in a community-led total sanitation activity, aimed at stopping open defecation. The WASHplus project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by FHI 360 and in partnership with CARE and Winrock International, is working with communities in Mali to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and reduce diarrhoeal diseases and under-nutrition.
It turned out that the community-led total sanitation approach, designed to trigger feelings of shame and disgust, was working beyond the village of Gouna.
“Having seen what was happening in our neighbour’s community, we decided to improve the sanitation condition in our village,” says Hamidou.
In nearly a year, Yarou Plateau has built more than 60 latrines and rehabilitated ones that had never been used.
The role of WASH in nutrition
Despite progress in recent years, defecating in the open is still a common practice in Mali. More than 1,5 million Malians – or 10% of the population – defecate in the open, which means that diseases like diarrhoea and intestinal worms can spread quickly.
“When people were defecating in the open in many of these villages, flies were taking the diseases from the faeces onto the food they were eating,” said Sahada Traore, WASHplus project leader at CARE International Mali.
Faecal matter was also contaminating villagers’ hands, water jugs and homes.
While inadequate dietary intake and disease, including diarrhoea, are the primary causes of under-nutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices are some of the key underlying causes of under-nutrition globally and especially in Mali.
When children have diarrhoea, they eat less and are less able to absorb and use nutrients from their food. In turn, under-nutrition makes them more susceptible to diarrhoea and the cycle repeats.