Abudu Gangi cleans her family’s latrine in her village in the Sunki Panchayat of Pottangi block in Koraput district of Orissa state. UNICEF is working the Government of India in the State to raise the importance of sanitation and the use of latrines.
KORAPUT, India, 22 March 2010 – Abudu Gangi is one of the committed women in Koraput district in the eastern Indian state of Orissa whose persistent efforts are adding up to bring about positive behavioural changes among people in the district.
For the people in Pata Laudi, a tiny village atop the mountains in Sunki Panchayat of Pottangi block in Koraput district, achieving one hundred per cent coverage of Individual Household Latrines (IIHL) was a dream that could not have been realised had it not been for the efforts of Gangi, supported by the District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) and UNICEF.
“The villagers used to defecate near the stream which was the only source of water for the village. This resulted in many elderly people and children dying each year due to water-borne diseases. But now, with every household having a toilet, the problem is solved,” says Abudu Gangi.
“Apart from constructing latrines near their houses, everyone is using them with proper care,” says Gangi. “There is a mud pot in each of the latrines and every time anyone from the family visits the stream, he makes it a point to fill the pot,” she adds as her husband Abudu Pokalaya sits beside her.
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Continuous consultations broke the ice
Achieving one hundred per cent coverage of Individual Household Latrines (IIHL) in the village called for behaviour change among the villagers with regards to defecation in the open. This was challenging considering the difficult hilly terrain of the village and the lack of water near the households in the village.
Recalling her first meeting with the Assistant Project Coordinator of DWSM, Sai Shankar Patnaik, when he visited Sunki exactly a year back, Gangi adds: “When the officials from the District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) of Koraput visited the village, they found it difficult to convince people to construct latrines near their houses. The DWSM had provided Rs 2200 ($45) for the construction of each toilet but it was difficult to get people to construct latrines near their houses with this amount of money in such a hilly terrain.”
“It was only after six months of continuous interactions with the villagers about the benefits of IHHL and the harmful effects of open defecation, that some headway was made,” adds Gangi.
Taking the lead
Gangi was the first villager to construct a toilet adjacent to her house in the village. Her example was then followed by other villagers.
Under the guidance of Mr. Patnaik and with support from UNICEF, the DWSM team provided technical guidance as well as the materials needed for the construction of toilets.
According to the DWSM, in Koraput the achievement of household latrines is now 37 per cent of the total households while it was only 5 per cent in 2002. UNICEF has supported the DWSM in Koraput by developing a joint District Plan of Action to build capacity and implementation ability in the district.
“It was difficult to get materials like cement, bricks, toilet pans and other construction materials to the village because of the rough terrain and also the lack of knowledge among villagers about materials needed for toilet construction,” says Gangi.
Materials were brought by volunteers and the villagers themselves carried them to their respective houses. The villagers were also trained in making bricks in the village.
“The villagers offered their own labour in bringing sand from the stream. Many of them also turned first time masons to construct their latrines. It was the combination of hard work of the villagers and the support of the volunteers from DWSM that made the difference,” adds Gangi.
Replicating the success
The success of the sanitation drive in Sunki and the work done by Gangi has meant that the message has spread to the nearby villages of Eppavalasa, Dabaguda, Gangapani and Junglepada.
Every village wants to better the achievement of the previous village. The villagers are now constructing roofs for their latrines even though there is no financial support provided by the DWSM for this.
In Gangapani, every household now has a latrine with a tiled roof and villagers in the neighboring village of Eppavalasa are working hard to achieve the same.
With people becoming more conscious about the benefits of IHHL and the harmful effects of open defecation, the hope is that the success of the drive in Sunki will be replicated throughout the entire district.