UNICEF partnered with the government and NGOs to mobilise communities in relief camps to clean up the open defecation and build toilets for men and women within the camp area. The exercise kicked off from the Nilayathachiamman Kovil, in Nagapattinam the men and older children enthusiastically shovelled the earth to clean up excreta lying scattered in the open. Government workers and 50 volunteers recruited by the NGO SCOPE supported community. A network of private corporations donated the sanitary materials to UNICEF to initiate the cleaning up operation and build simple communal toilets for both women and men.
Training the community and the volunteers
Community members and volunteers recruited in Trichy by SCOPE were first trained in the Centre on the need for maintaining environmental sanitation that focussed on the prevention of open defecation, provision of appropriate toilets, refuse disposal, and the importance of washing hands with soap after defecation. Soap provided to UNICEF by Rotary and P&G was distributed by the trained volunteers to complete the process.
The Joint Secretary Health, Supriya Sahu requested the UNICEF team to deploy trained volunteers to three camps where sanitation and water is a critical problem. The Water, Environment and Sanitation (WES) officer at Nagapattinam will deploy 15 of these volunteers at each of the Centres.
The rollout plan of the Community Centre sanitation programme will be need-based covering all Centres in the district that do not yet have any toilets. The Joint Secretary will maintain contact with the UNICEF WES officers to co-ordinate the efforts.
Trenches 3 ft. deep, 2 ft. wide and 7 ft. long were dug in the open compound of the temple, enough for 45 people to use the toilets at one time. For privacy, the trenches were covered with coconut thatch “walls”. Special women’s toilets were created to protect their privacy - a major issue at the camps.
The UNICEF initiative will ensure that all relief camps have sanitation facilities and the community will be in charge of maintaining cleanliness in these temporary structures.
Community takes responsibility to clean up toilets
The 15 members of the Fishermen’s committee along with women groups agree to take responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of the toilets and ensure that no body in the camps defecates anywhere in the open but in the toilets.
Women and children began using the toilets minutes after they were constructed. “This is a great relief. We were defecating and eating food in the same grounds. Many of us felt giddy while eating due to the stench from the excreta,” says Meenakshi who comes with her child six year old child the newly built toilet.