‘Don’t take it lightly, a house is incomplete without a toilet’

13Jul 2020
The Guardian
‘Don’t take it lightly, a house is incomplete without a toilet’

ACTIVISTS and a breadth of government officials have for nearly two years worked to raise awareness on the building of proper toilets in each household, as scores of households in innumerable number of wards in each district countrywide don’t have appropriate human waste disposal areas.

The campaign is focused on the idea that the heart of the house is the toilet, and thus to live a completely modern life each household needs to improve toileting as a whole. It is to build and use accessible toilets f or all household members; any exception dents the purpose.

That is why campaigners emphasise that a toilet is not sufficiently improved without a basin for hand washing, or running water close to it. A write up by the official website of the campaign says that the campaign is part of strategies of the government to improve the health status of the people by controlling water and sanitation related diseases. It points out that campaigns of this sort havek been there in past decades, to induce behaviour change at the household level, whose starting point is given as 1973. The ‘Mtu ni Afya’ campaign was implemented from 1973 to 1978, instigating remarkable improvements including increasing the coverage of basic sanitation from 20per cent to 80 per cent. As it often happens, some will start slipping off, losing the pace.

In the past decade there was a renewed effort in that direction, in the National Sanitation Campaign, Phase 1 (2012 – 2016) and Phase 2 (2016 – 2021) which thus continues at present. It has an explicit aim of transforming communities to construct and use improved toilets rather than the traditional toilets built during the ‘Mtu ni Afya’ Campaign. However, a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2016 indicated that between 55 and 65 per cent  of households  were still using unimproved facilities while eight to 12 per cent had no toilet facility.

The current campaign focuses on the datum that currently between 55 and 65 per cent of households still use unimproved facilities, while around 10 per cent have no such facility, In addition, hand washing with soap at critical moments during the day is low, somewhere around 20 per cent overall. This brings up the need for the National Sanitation Campaign, appealing to households to construct and use improved latrines as well as practice hand washing with soap at the most of exiting such facilities. Remarkable achievements have been observed in some communities that have taken to heart this campaign and put up effective mobilization to do so.

The worries and fears that came up with the Covid-19 threat of spreading has improved awareness on handwashing, but the crucial aspect is the presence of proper toilet facilities with running water or clean vessels for dipping and reuse. Activists have reached most districts and wards countrywide, with artistes or a few of them specifically having played a crucial part in spreading the message. Other media have participated in different ways like highlighting activities going on in relation to the theme, and relaying remarks and evaluations on these efforts by various national leaders. There should be no let up until each household has an improved toilet facility, and rented premises make an effort to ensure that toilet facilities aren’t used by too many people. The same goes for installing toilet facilities in schools, where many gaps still arise.