Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) extended its services in cholera hotspots in South Sudan, a region particularly affected due to recurring conflicts and natural disasters. In 2017 PAH’s Emergency Response Team raised large-scale public awareness on the importance of using latrines and was able to reach 15,895 beneficiaries giving them access to dignified, safe, clean and functional excreta disposal facilities. 43 functional sample latrines were constructed, principally in public institutions such as health centers, schools and market places. The sample latrines for community household were constructed using local materials to ensure that the community can reproduce the design and in so doing, spread the use of latrines across the area.
In addition, PAH Emergency Response Team provided access to safe water and sanitation (WASH) to 135,305 beneficiaries through the training of communities, the distribution of latrine digging tools, and by encouraging households to construct their own latrines.
On 8th April 2018, during an exclusive interview with a Laboratory Medical Assistant of Walang-walang Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC), Emmanuel Dominic Loku, said that the enormous awareness conducted by Polish Humanitarian Action has effectively changed communities’ mindsets on open defecation. He also appreciated the enthusiastic youths trained as water pump mechanics, “I really appreciate your work, the pump mechanics you have trained are brilliant, whenever there is a breakdown of borehole they quickly repair it successfully, they contribute to the prevention of cholera, because drinking clean and safe water save lives”, Dominic added.
He reiterated the achievements of PAH, highlighting that since PAH left in November 2017, PHCC, only had to attend minor cases not related to cholera, “The lifestyle of people here relatively improved, we do receive patients ranging from 15-20 a day most of whom are suffering from malaria and few cases of watery diarrheas from the age of 0-5 years old”, said Dominic.
It was not easy to change people’s behaviors regarding open defecations in South Sudan. Open defecation is one of the leading factors contributing to contamination of water and food. It is a common practice in the country where 90% of the population lack latrines. “Few of the community members have latrines around their houses, the majority do not have latrine, bringing change is a gradual process” said Laboratory Medical Assistant, Emmanuel Dominic.
Thomas Wani, a resident of Nyai at Northern Bari Payam in the outskirts of Juba city mentioned he had constructed a pit latrine with the support from Polish Humanitarian Action; “Before then I didn’t have a latrine, we went for open defecation, which was particularly difficult when it was raining, especially for those suffering from diarrhea”, Wani said. This practice is also dangerous as it leaves the individuals exposed to wild animals, including snakes.
Wani further narrated that he has seen a lot of positive changes in his family’s health since they began using the latrine. A statement reiterated by others, such as a widow called Victoria Lino, resident of Nyai whom stated that the use of latrine had improved her family’s life, “10 years we struggled with numerous diseases related to poor hygiene and sanitation, we had stomachaches, diarrhea, and cholera all around just because children defecated all over the compound, we the elders also did not use latrines, as they were not available”, Victoria said.
Northern Bari Payam is located on the lowland part of the river Nile, north of Juba, and is one of the villages spotted as a cholera hotspot by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the WASH cluster in the country. PAH was selected to focus on service delivery to reduce human suffering through community sensitization on the use of latrines in order to improve hygiene and sanitation following repeated cholera outbreak in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Victoria said that before Polish Humanitarian Action intervened in her village she struggled to construct one latrine using local materials, but the latrine did not last due to flood, “when it collapsed we went back to open defecation, but then PAH came and supported with tools and trained us on how to build better latrines, capable of withstanding the rain”.
A 37 years old woman, Easter Keji dweller of Dongoda also said her children learned a lot through the hygiene promotion PAH conducted, “Now these days my home is very clean, you never see feces or rotten objects around my compound, no case of cholera or diarrhea. Those who are able to use latrines use them and for the younger ones, their wastes are collected and put into the latrines”, Keji added. Recently, in greater Magwi in the former Eastern Equatoria state, 8 families voluntarily constructed their own latrines using local materials. This was a result of PAH mobilization on the use of latrines which reached the state and put pressure on the community there.
During celebration of world toilet day on 19th November 2017 in Dongoda village, Northern Bari Payam in outskirts of Juba city, Central Equatoria state, 11 people gave their testimonies on the importance of using latrines. A 24-year-old woman, Manuela Lawrence said, “I realized the importance of using a latrine in my family, since we began to use latrines, there has been no sickness like diarrheas and cholera, all human wastes are collected in one pit latrine”.
Polish Humanitarian Action also trained 162 communities hygiene promoters in 11 different locations, conducted awareness on proper disposal of human wastes, rehabilitated 52 broken water points, drilled 6 new boreholes, provided soaps, hygiene promotion posters, distributed PUR and water containers with taps to communities living in hard to reach and remote areas through the financial support from the European Commission and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
PAH continues with its commitment to change behaviors and to provide technical skills on latrine construction and use as a way to prevent diseases and improve the overall quality of life in South Sudan.