Santino Garang Maduok, UMCOR South Sudan hygiene promotion officer, facilitates a CLTS session in a community in Northern Bahr el Gazal state, mapping out OD areas and their relationship to other village activities. Photo: Mike Barbee
By David Tereshchuk*
June 25, 2015—In remote villages of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, communities are making strides in learning about and addressing the need for comprehensive sanitation change to improve the health and well-being of their members.
In the state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is supporting those efforts through an approach known as Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).
CLTS encourages communities to identify what is harmful to their health in the all-too-frequent practice of defecating in the open and then take collective action to clean up and make their villages “open-defecation free.”
In South Sudan ending the practice of open defecation (OD) is key to improving community health. Currently, 77 percent of the population practices OD, and only 9 percent use improved sanitation facilities, according to UNICEF’s recently released Progress for Children report.
Erika Pearl, program manager for UMCOR’s country office in South Sudan, said the time is right for promoting CLTS in South Sudan.
After a long civil war that resulted in independence from Sudan in 2011, she said, “communities are ready to take charge of their future, and CLTS is one important way they can do this. They make and implement the decisions and see the benefits and positive results of their actions.”
An empowering approach
Community Lead Total Sanitation from Global Ministries on Vimeo.
The CLTS approach, which has seen considerable success in developing countries, encourages villagers to identify sanitation issues, articulate solutions, and remedy problems using local materials.
In an UMCOR CLTS workshop, a facilitator accompanies community members in a walk around the village, asking them to identify areas of OD as well as areas where children play, where food is prepared or grown, and where water sources are located.
The community re-gathers to map out what they have identified and to discuss the impact of OD in their village. This discussion, or “triggering session,” sparks ideas about how to end OD and build household or community latrines. The community devises, implements, and sustains the solution, using materials at hand.
“The CLTS approach is remarkable to witness,” said Mike Barbee, technical officer for UMCOR Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects. During a recent visit to South Sudan he had the opportunity to see the approach, facilitated by UMCOR South Sudan staff members, in action.
“When I saw the community triggering sessions, I was impressed by the involvement—and by the results we’re seeing. More than 60 percent of the villages where we’ve completed sessions are now open-defecation free, and that will help improve the health of everyone,” Barbee said.
As the process continues, such successes are sure to encourage still more communities to emulate the good example of their neighbors.
Your gift to UMCOR Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, Advance #3020600, will help communities in South Sudan and elsewhere in the world gain access to clean, safe water and improve their sanitation and overall health.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.