The midday sun was relentless and beads of perspiration are on everyone’s faces. But, there is no resting for a small group of volunteers whose mission is to complete a pit latrine for an elderly woman in Borangchhilo village under Shumar gewog last week.
She is one of the few people who have not been able to construct proper toilet so far and as the race for the hygienic sanitation coverage for all households in the dzongkhag nears achievement, the few such people are given a helping hand by local officials and neighbours in the construction.
“There were just few households who could not construct proper toilet under my area which includes entire Shumar, parts of Zobel and Khar gewogs. There is no way these elderly and infirm people can build on their own and thus, I mobilize local volunteers including gewog officials to have simple pit latrines built for them during weekends,” said Yeshi Wangdi, the health worker and a project facilitator.
He said that following this another pit latrine was built in Khar gewog for an elderly man leaving just one more to be constructed by volunteers in Shali village for him to achieve hundred percent toilet coverage under his jurisdiction.
Dawa Zangmo, the gewog administrative officer of Shumar who also helped in the construction said that it was a weekend spent well helping someone in need. The gewog also provided some used roofing materials for the woman.
Yeshi Wangdi said that, diarrhoea is the second highest reported cases after ARI in the country. Having simple and affordable sanitation toilets can reduce such cases drastically. “I want to ensure that the occurrences of water borne disease are drastically reduced under my area which will be possible after all the households under my area have sanitation toilet.”
According to dzongkhag health officer Gopal Hingmang, sanitation toilet for every household in the dzongkhag passed its deadline by December 2013 and extended for another six months because of empty households (Goongtong) issue. “Despite this, we are now well on achieving the objective with just few households requiring constructions under respective BHUs.”
Yeshi Wangdi, who also worked in the same SNV collaborated project in Lhuentse said that the sanitation project was first undertaken in the country’s four gewogs of Jarey under Lhuentse, Hiley under Sarpang, Laya under Gasa and Nanong under Pemagatshel. “Based on the success of the pilot project, rest of the gewogs under this dzongkhag was put under the project in 2011,” he said.
According to DHO, Nanong today has hygienic sanitation toilet coverage of about 99 percent and the rest of the gewogs are now closing in with an overall coverage of over 95 percent achieved so far.
He also said that, the reason for selecting Pemagatshel as the second dzongkhag following success in Lhuntse is not only based on the three indicators of poverty, literacy and remoteness. Incidences of diarrhoeal cases are also quite high in the dzongkhag.
Yeshi Wangdi explained that, the project was executed thus far through motivation. “We talked exhaustively with the people, explained the importance of toilet and followed up persistently, resulting in good outcome but there are few who needed physical help to build simple toilets which we are doing with local volunteers.”
But he said, “Achieving construction target is no reason to rejoice, what matters most is making use of them. What use would a toilet be if people still defecated openly? Every time I go into the villages I make inspections and question people if I still find them unused,” said Yeshi Wangdi.
Different kind of hygienic sanitation toilets have been promoted during the project, based on the affordability of the individuals and availability of resources like water. These ranged from flush toilets to improved VIP latrines, from eco-san toilets to improved traditional toilets and even properly built pit toilets with lid.
Yeshi Wangdi said that, his next target is improving and protecting drinking water sources. “There are instances where the water sources are clean but lacked proper protection when it is diverted to intake tanks. In Khar village, a clean water source is found contaminated by animal faeces before it is finally collected in an intake tank.”