ECHO supporting for 'Open Defecation Free Nepal'

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On a sunny afternoon in the foothills of Manaslu Mountain in the western Nepal, Buddhi Maya Gurung and Dhana Maya Gurung were working hard, hitting big stones and turning into pebbles.

They seem in a hurry to build a toilet.

Their toilet was collapsed in the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, destroying around 220,000 toilets, causing an increase in open defecation.

The trained masons were putting one stone after another to build an earthquake resilient toilet.

“It was just a few months since we had started defecating in the proper toilet when the earthquake struck,” Buddhi Maya Gurung said.

“After the earthquake, we are again forced to defecate in the open area.”

Like these two Gurung neighbors of Gauda VDC in Lamjung district, everyone in the village are forced for open defecation following the earthquake, which destroyed almost 90% of the toilets in the VDC.

Building toilets in this poor Gurung community wasn’t an easy task.  And shifting from an open field to behind the walls was even more difficult.

“Especially during day time it was quite embarrassing as many times people pass by while defecating in an open space,” she says, “I usually choose night for long toilet.”

The government had to force people by introducing various policies including ‘either build a toilet or will be barred from government benefits including social security schemes for old-age people, benefits to single women, birth certificates and citizenship certificate, among others.

Such rules were imposed to succeed the government’s mega campaign to declare the whole country open defecation free.

For the past several years, the government of Nepal in coordination with several national and international agencies was extensively working towards declaring ‘Open Defecation Free Country’ by the year 2017.

“Building toilet was never our priority as for poor people like me, buying food or even making a good house were in the priority, eating food was important than defecating in a closed room,” she says.

“But once built, we were slowly habituating in using latrine. Once you have a proper toilet you feel going whenever you need to,” she added. “Earlier, we had to look for better time and space.”

The whole Lamjung district was already declared an open defecation free.

The massive earthquake has put a break in the hustle of declaring ‘Open Defecation Free District’, causing into further delay of the plan.

“It was a matter of pride, when the district was declared open defecation free,” Bir Bahadur Gurung, principal of a local school in Gauda VDC said. “Now the earthquake has pushed us back to the previous situation.”

However, he expressed his happiness that European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) has taken a lead to help them build their toilets, and restore dignity. And this time earthquake resilient toilets!

Realising the current situation and aiming to combat the problems of community people, ECHO has come forward as one of the key players to support the people in this VDC along with others so that they regain their ‘honor’ and the government of Nepal succeed in its mega plan ‘Open Defecation Free Nepal’.

With the funding of ECHO, ACT Alliance's members- DanChurchAid, Lutheran World Relief and ICCO Cooperation- have formed a consortium to build 1000 toilets of earthquake survivors in Lamjung, Dhading and Makawanpur districts in central and western Nepal. DanChurchAid is leading the consortium.

In the previous, Nepal Earthquake Reconstruction Project (NERP), also funded by ECHO, more than 2000 households received support for improving their sanitary condition in Dhading, Rasuwa, Makawanpur and Sindhupalchowk districts.

The ECHO funded Shelter Support to the Earthquake Affected Communities of Nepal (SEACON) project has adopted a gender inclusive design of a toilet i.e. toilet with proper bathing space. It gives an ample space especially to women to have privacy while taking bath.

The project has supported construction materials to the earthquake survivors.

The earthquake survivors will receive construction materials worth Rs 10,000 and they will be using local materials to complete the toilet construction.

These toilets will be constructed by trained masons and carpenters.

Under the SEACON project, over 400 masons and carpenters are trained with earthquake resilient masonry and carpentry training.

The recent need assessment survey shows that almost 90% of the respondents living in the project area had proper toilets before the earthquake.

The survey also shows that around 85% of the toilets were either fully or partially damaged in the earthquake. The survey was conducted by SEACON project to identify the beneficiaries.

Buddha Maya and Dhana Maya’s toilets are also under construction now.

“We lost everything in the earthquake and still not being able to construct our shelter, so it’s a great support for me,” she says. “At least I can now only think about building better shelter.”

The project area covers Gauda and Ilam Pokhari VDCs of Lamjung district in the western Nepal, Thaha Municipality and Chitlang VDCs of Makawanpur district in the central Nepal and Dhola and Maidi VDC of Dhading district also in the central Nepal. Dhola VDC of Dhading, Lamjung and Makawanpur districts have already been declared as open defecation free.

Rauniyar is Communications Officer for ECHO funded SEACON Project at DanChurchAid.

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