Monday, June 25, 2012

Improving Water, Sanitation, and Health: Itarchi Hakimabad, Afghanistan

In Badakhshan, Afghanistan’s most populated province, lies the small village of Itarchi Hakimabad. With just over 300 people dispersed in 50 households, Itarchi Hakimabad’s residents suffered from constant health issues often related to poor hygiene practices in communities that practice open defecation.

Last September, through USAID’s Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project, Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) facilitators held an initial community mobilization session to teach the villagers how to mobilize together in order to convert Itarchi Hakimabad into an open defecation-free (ODF) village.

Beyond simply constructing latrines, the session instills communal responsibility—the understanding that even if one household continues to defecate openly it endangers the village as a whole.

Haj Abd Qodus was among the participants at the CLTS session. His attendance prompted him to construct a latrine for his home. He became committed to not only using it, but also speaking to others in his village about the repercussions of living in an open defecation zone with the hope of motivating them to construct their own latrines.

Apart from the desperately needed health and hygienic benefits that having a latrine has provided his growing family, which includes his five grandsons, Mr. Qodos also realized the additional payoffs.
“Every week I rented a car for 500 Afghan dollars to purchase medicine as well as pay for a doctor because everyday my family members, especially my grandchildren complained of diarrhea, but now I do not face any kind of disease in our home. I did not have to pay for a doctor or medicine; therefore, I have saved money and time because the doctor is very far from us.”
Since his neighbors and the residents of Itarchi Hakimabad began practicing and enforcing free defecation zones in their community, Mr. Qodus has found a new sense of pride. “I am very happy to walk through my clean village especially [the area] around the mosque,” he said.

The process of certifying a village as open defecation-free is quite involved. After an internal team deemed Itarchi open defecation-free, an external verification team was invited to substantiate its new status. On March 26, 2011, an external team composed of representatives from the community and the provincial government arrived to inspect the village.

In observing Itarchi Hakimabad’s transformation, Mr. Abozar, a government delegate, declared it an open defecation-free village.

“I appreciate this valuable initiative in the Badakhshan province,” said Abozar. “I hope this village [serves as an example] for all of Badakhshan and that the morbidity rate in the province continues to drop.”

Itarchi Hakimabad is declared an open defecation free village. (Photo credit: Mahjan CLTS Facilitator)
Itarchi Hakimabad is declared an open defecation free village. (Photo credit: Mahjan CLTS Facilitator)

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