Nepal: Communities changed behaviour through WATSAN programme

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Nirmal Adhikari


Hasta Lal Pun Magar, 40, of Kotgaun- 8, Rolpa, has now a toilet, a washing platform, a utensil drying stand and garbage pit in his home. He produces vegetables in his own kitchen garden. His family now uses toilet regularly and wash their hands with soap water after toilets and before every meal. "I would like to thank the Red Cross for developing my awareness about the importance of personal hygiene and assisting me to construct sanitary units at home," he shared in the annual review and planning workshop.

Mr. Magar had attended a series of meetings, sanitation campaigns and hand washing trainings organized in his community. Once, he took his son of four and half years to participate in a healthy child competition. He is now motivating his friends of his community to draw life- long membership of the Red Cross. He himself is planning to take the membership in a group of his community.

Rolpa is one of the districts of the mid-western Nepal, about 500 K.M far from the capital, which has several communities vulnerable to natural disaster, like landslide, diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, and food scarcity, as well as vulnerable by HIV and AIDS.

Nepal Red Cross Society has been implementing drinking water and sanitation programme in Kotgaun Village Development Committee of Rolpa district with the support of the Austrian Red Cross since January 2009 for three years. The programme has now left some positive changes during one year of its implementation. About 5,500 people have benefitted through the programme services.

There is improvement in personal hygiene, sanitary behaviour of the community, household sanitation and environmental cleanliness. A sense of coordination and cooperation has developed, women are empowered, and several saving groups and child clubs have been formed. Because of the awareness about health and sanitation among the community people, no one died in the whole Village Development Committee due to water born disease even if acute water diarrhoea out broke in 2009 which claimed more than 300 lives in other communities of Rolpa and its neighbouring 18 districts.

"Because Red Cross has helped in their health and sanitation problems, it has reduced our suffering. So people now think of the Red Cross as a humanitarian organization," said Naul Singh Pun, drinking water and sanitation programme convenor, Rolpa district chapter. He presides the Rolpa District Executive committee and represents districts as Central Executive Committee member.

Sharing about the strength of the programme, Padam Khadka, NRCS Director of Drinking Water and Sanitation Programme said, "The best practices of the programme has been shared in the other project implementing districts which has helped face challenges in the implementation phases."

Communities get benefitted through motivational programmes such as health education class, sanitation camp, door to door visit, hand washing training, wall painting, street drama, song competition and clean home competition. Similarly, drinking water schemes and sanitary units are being constructed in the community. The people are learning on how properly use and manage drinking water. Women members balance their surplus in the saving credit groups. They have practice of borrowing loan when they need money to invest in micro- economic initiatives. Addressing the participants Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, Secretary General, NRCS stressed on the pressing need of social inclusion in the Red Cross programmes and activities.

Not only Hasta Lal Pun Magar, Anita Shiva Bhakti, 30, of Naglebhare- 6, Kathmandu also shared similar experience of behavioural change in the community. She now thinks that the Red Cross has developed her leadership skills so that she could speak openly, put her concerns and motivate her colleagues for social work. She wants to see the regular presence of the Red Cross in her community even after the phase -over of the programme.

Nepal Red Cross Society has been implementing water and sanitation programmes in Majhphat VDC of Parbat and Naglebhare VDC of Kathmandu districts since January 2009 for three years with the support of the German Red Cross.

The Water and Sanitation Programme is expected to benefit 20,000 rural community people by the end 2011. The workshop reviewed all activities of the year 2009 and planned budget for the 2010. For the three programme, the German Red Cross and the Austrian Red Cross are providing US 473,000 dollar and US 250,000 dollar respectively.