An additional 12 gewogs in seven dzongkhags were recognized for achieving the status of Open Defecation Free (ODF) and 100 percent improved sanitation coverage during the celebration of the World Toilet in Sarpang on Tuesday.
This takes the total number of gewogs with ODF status and 100 percent improved sanitation coverage in the country to 93 gewogs. Two more dzongkhags, Tsirang and Trongsa joined Mongar and Samdrup Jongkhar in achieving ODF status in all its gewog this year.
Local leaders and health workers from 12 gewogs gathered in Shompangkha gewog, Sarpang to receive their certificates of achievement.
Toilets save lives, because human waste spreads killer diseases. World Toilet Day is about inspiring actions to tackle the global sanitation problems. It was for this reason that the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day.
According to the 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB), Gasa district recorded the lowest proportion of households with improved sanitation facilities at 55.1%, followed by Dagana at 59.8%.
The theme for this year’s World Toilet Day “Toilets for all,” is a call to leave no one behind as the world strives to achieve universal access to sanitation.
Globally, 2.4 bn people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines, according to the United Nations. Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases.
The PHCB found that 25% of households are without improved sanitation facilities and 77.5% of these are in rural communities. A baseline survey for WASH in monastic institutions, 2019, found that 22% lack access to improved sanitation and only 35% of the institutions experienced uninterrupted water supply. The PHCB 2017 reported that 98% of households has access to piped drinking water source compared to 54% in 1990.
Chief Engineer with the Public Health Engineering Division, Ministry of Health, Rinchen Wangdi commended the gewogs in achieving 100 percent improved sanitation coverage this year.
“This year 12 more gewogs are officially declared Open Defecation Free after achieving 100 percent improved sanitation coverage, while Tsirang and Trongsa Dzongkhags are recognized for achieving 100 percent sanitation coverage in all its gewogs,” he said. “These achievements are great inspiration for our health workers and local government leaders to continue their efforts towards making our homes clean and safe.”
Besides being the leading causes of child mortality and morbidity, poor hygiene, open defecation, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation systems also contribute to undernutrition and stunting and are barriers to children’s education.
“We must continue the good progress we have made towards ensuring that every child and household has access to improved toilets and hygienic practices,” Deputy Representative of UNICEF Juliette Haenni said. “UNICEF will continue to support the efforts made to enhance access to water and improved sanitation facilities for the children of Bhutan.”
For many years, SNV’s efforts in WASH have been centred on scale, systems change, and governments as the duty bearers for service delivery and development.
“Now with the ever-increasing number of dzongkhags and gewogs with access to improved sanitation coverage annually, there is an urgent need to introduce the ‘safely managed’ services including in schools and health facilities to ensure sustainability in all settings,” Country Representative of SNV Bhutan, Kencho Wangdi said. “SNV is committed to continued collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the WASH partners in achieving its progress for equitable, universal access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene for all.”
Recognising the importance of sanitation and hygiene in reducing the overall disease burden, the Ministry of Health initiated the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP) in 2008.
Health Ministry officials said that the Royal Government of Bhutan will continue to work together with UNICEF and SNV, and other partners to ensure that every household in rural communities have access to safe sanitation, health and hygiene, especially for the children of Bhutan.
Tshering from Thimphu