Two informal settlements on verge of Open Defecation Free status
16 March 2021 | Social Issues
Two communities at the outskirts of Windhoek are anxiously waiting to hear if they have achieved open defecation free (ODF) status, a possible first for a Windhoek informal settlement.
Last week Nalitungwe and Hadino Hinshongwa informal settlements welcomed a team of national ODF inspectors to showcase the progress they have made since 2019 to improve sanitation and cleanliness in their communities.
In late 2020, both communities were able to self-verify their areas as ODF, the first step in the process to obtain official certification.
Following on-the-ground inspections last week by the national ODF committee, the community is waiting with bated breath for the results. If successful, their ODF status will mark a major milestone for Windhoek informal settlements, lighting the way for other communities to follow in their hard-working steps.
Informal settlements in Namibia have long faced municipal neglect, with residents forced to use open spaces such as riverbeds and other remote spaces as toilets.
Lack of water and electricity, basic hand-washing facilities, exposure to heat and cold, lack of safety and security, are hallmarks of life in informal settlements.
With no basic hand-washing facilities and human defecation taking place in open spaces situated amid the sprawling settlements, hepatitis-E spread fast, engulfing the communities since 2017.
“In Nalitungwe, the basic cleanliness of the community has improved dramatically in terms of waste management and sanitation,” Foibe Silvanus, the Moses Garoeb CLTS coordinator, said last week. “They understand they need to build and share toilets. General hygiene has improved. Previously rubbish was all over, toilet paper in the riverbed. But now, we are proud to say the community have obtained an understanding of living in a clean environment.”
She underlined that the facelift has not only improved general hygiene and cleanliness in the neighbourhoods but has reduced cases of illness, especially diarrhoea among children and hepatitis-E.
Berthold Haingura, the CLTS coordinator for Samora Machel constituency, says the communities have affected a dramatic transformation. “You can see the change of before and after. They have built their own sanitation facilities, and the waste is managed with a new dumpsite.”
The municipality sends a truck once a week to collect the rubbish, another milestone for the community.
Haingura pointed to a riverbed nearby, that is crossed every day by children and adults, but was previously filled with rubbish, including human faeces. “It was so disgusting, you could not cross here. The CLTS intervention has brought these changes, where people manage their waste. It’s a great job.”
Haingura underlined that an ODF certification would have a ripple effect, motivating other communities to push for their own ODF status.
To be declared ODF, all households have to have access to a clean toilet built according to specification, in addition to a hand-washing facility next to it. Other requirements include environments free of human faeces and rubbish, sewage water and general cleanliness.
The CLTS campaigns were first launched in 2019 by the Development Workshop Namibia (DWN) together with Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE) and technical support from UNICEF alongside community leaders and volunteers from Moses //Garoeb and Samora Machel.
CLTS uses a community bottom-up approach to sensitise informal residents of the dangers of open defecation and to encourage the construction of latrines and rubbish dumps, as well as overall hygiene.
CLTS community volunteers played a crucial role, visiting households advising them on hygiene and sanitation, while the DWN built demonstration sanitation centres to help residents understand the requirements to build their own toilets.
DWN project coordinator Sheya Timo Gotlieb says the community alongside their CLTS partners are excited to hear the outcome of the verification process.
“It has been a very successful transformation for them. They live here, they travel to other communities and see the difference between their block and the other areas. I think it will be a moment of pride.”