Borikhamxay Districts Achieve Milestone in Sanitation
Borikhamxay province: Two districts in this province – Pakxan and Thaphabath are the first in the country to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status now that all residents have access to improved sanitation.
The ODF programme began in June 2015, supported by the Central Nam Saat initiative under UNICEF.
Speaking at a ceremony on Tuesday to announce the districts’ success, Borikhamxay provincial Governor DrKongkeoXaysongkham said the two districts were the first in the entire country to achieve this status. These means that all 75,000 people including children and women in all 80 villages of these districts are now using toilets and no one is practising open defecation.
The achievement follows the government’s efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene and thus the health and well-being of communities across the country.
DrKongkeo said today we are declaring that these two districts no longer practice open defecation. But health officials need to increase understanding of the importance of this work among local people as many families are poorly informed about the need for good hygiene and still don’t understand why it is necessary.
Sustaining their ODF status will be challenging for the districts, as they must comply with several criteria including use of a toilet, handwashing with soap, use of safe water, use of safe food, a clean house, and a clean environment.
A representative of UNICEF in Laos, Mr. Bishnu Timilsina, said this was a significant milestone because these are the very first ODF districts out of seven in Borikhamxay and are the first to be so declared in the whole of Laos. Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate Thaphabath and Pakxan districts and everyone who contributed to this achievement, he said.
I wish to acknowledge the joint efforts of the provincial health department, Lao Women’s Union and other government agencies with support from UNICEF. This is remarkable teamwork to increase access to improved sanitation in these target districts.
We are working together with the province and district authorities, village chiefs, community leaders, young people, children and all residents, Mr. Timilsina added.
A practice that has gone on for hundreds, even thousands of years, has now disappeared after sustained effort over several years, he said. This is a life-changing moment for the populations of Pakxan and Thaphabath, as poor sanitation remains one of the biggest barriers to development because of its impact on health and education.
Mr. Timilsina said that even before starting school children are at risk from poor sanitation. Acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea diseases are the main cause of infant mortality and are related to unclean water, poor hygiene, and a lack of sanitation.
Open defecation is a major cause of malnutrition and stunting. The availability and use of toilets is important to the health and nutrition of children.
It is crucial for those living in remote rural areas to understand the link between basic sanitation and improved health. The contrast between urban and rural populations using improved sanitation is significant. In Laos, 91 percent of urban dwellers use improved sanitation compared with 48 percent of people living in rural areas.
Source: Vientiane Times