Apr 11, 2017

PAPHyR holds celebration for its first village declared Open Defecation Free

MCDI’s Improved Access and Hygiene Practices in Rural Areas Program (PAPHyR) in Benin celebrated its first village to reach Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. Alétan, in the commune of Bantè, was celebrated in a ceremony on April 11.

This celebration was unprecedented in the history of Alétan, a village located more than 20 km away from the central district of Bantè. "This is the first time we have a party for something like this," said a village resident. This is an opinion shared by the community members who have now decided to turn their backs on open-air defecation. Apart from the cleanliness that is observed in the courtyards of the houses now, each household has equipped itself with a toilet and a hand washing station, marking a real change in behavior for the inhabitants of this village that had just recently practiced open air defecation.

PAPHyR’s interventions were initially met with hesitation. "At the start of this program, we were skeptical that this program will work in our community or anywhere else," said the mayor of Bantè, Innocent Akobi.

Despite these hesitations, the community eventually saw the benefits of PAPHyR’s interventions. Welcoming the results of the Community-led Total Sanitation Approach (CLTS) used by the project, Akobi argued that, "problems related to basic hygiene and sanitation find the actors are at the same time the first victims who benefit from the interventions.”

Proud of the results, the Chief of Party for PAPHyR, Yadjide Adissoda Gbèdo, recalled that the project started with the NGOs who became the delegated implementing agencies in March 2016. With the help of these NGOs and after one year of intervention, 354 localities have already passed the pre-certification stage to be declared ODF by the National Directorate of Public Health (DNSP), and 244 other localities are waiting to achieve this stage as well.

For the Chief of Staff of the Minister of Health, Lucien Toko, open air defecation is one of the main causes of the degradation of the sanitary conditions of the country, not only promoting the emergence of infectious and parasitic diseases, but also increasing the rates of morbidity and mortality. He pointed out that 90% of the chronic diseases in Benin, particularly for those living in rural areas, were caused by open defecation and poor sanitation. Toko recognized that the first results of PAPHyr testify to the capacities of communities to change their poor hygiene and sanitation practices. "We can say that we have hope and that the Ministry of Health has not been mistaken in adopting the CLTS approach at the heart of the program's interventions," he said.

In order to make the changes of the project sustainable, Toko urged the communities to set up local health committees for all the neighborhoods of the villages. He also suggested the establishment of a post-ODF follow-up plan to maintain the achievements in basic sanitation facilities and compliance with basic hygiene rules that have been made. Finally, he called on local mayors, elected officials and departmental health officials to "work in perfect symbiosis" with PAPHyR. The ceremony ended with a flag being raised in the center of the village to mark the end of open defecation.

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