Hygiene education for a village in Mali

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FADIEDA, Mali, 14 December 2009 - The village of Fadieda is at the forefront of a new pilot programme in Africa. It's one of 15 villages selected by UNICEF and the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation to change the way it approaches sanitation.

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Until recently, the inhabitants of this village did not use latrines, a very common occurrence in Mali. About 61 per cent of the rural population does not have access to improved sanitation facilites, causing serious health issues, like diarrhoea or eye diseases.

To put an end to this practice, UNICEF and its partners chose an approach that relies on the people themselves and on community leaders such as Sho Traore.

Disease from poor hygiene

"People were very affected by diseases like diarrhoea and they didn't realize that it was related to their hygiene practices until people came and explained the problem to us," said Mr. Traore.

The villagers did not understand the problems associated with open air defecation until UNICEF and its partners arranged a graphic demonstration. Putting excrement and everyday food close together so that the villagers could see how flies travelled from one to the other provoked a strong reaction and helped them realize where their diseases were coming from.

In less than a month, villagers had built no fewer than 40 latrines, and Fadieda has become the first village to receive 'Open Air Defecation Free' status.

Celebrating cleanliness

Villagers celebrated their achievement with a large ceremony. And the village now proudly displays a sign at its entrance: "Clean village, where good hygiene practices are the rule."

"Villagers themselves have committed to building the latrines. It's their own initiative and their own strength. No external funding has been brought in," said Ministry of Health spokesperson Diarra Diadouba.

Since the construction of the latrines, diarrhoea cases have dropped in the village. Now, the community takes responsibility for its health and sanitation. It has also promoted handwashing with soap - a practice that can save lives.

A big surprise

"People were telling us 'no, you can't talk about poo with people in Mali, you can't make them build their own equipment because they are too poor.' But on the whole, we have had a really strong impact. In three months only, the coverage in latrines in the test villages went from 30 per cent to 100 per cent, and without any subsidy. This was a big surprise for us," said UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Manager Nicolas Osbert.

In the 15 pilot villages, 272 new latrines have been built and 95 have been rehabilitated. All latrines have been equipped with handwashing facilities.

Sho Traore will now has the task of spreading the news about good sanitation to other community leaders - the programme is being expanded to 175 other villages throughout Mali.