By Daniel Edyegu
For Violet Amusugut, 32, it came naturally to live in a clean place. A mother of five residing in Rarak village, Molo sub-county, Tororo district, she dug a pit latrine as soon as she started having children in 2004. Her home, ringed inside a well kempt hedge is nearly quarter the size of a football field, contains a garden of grafted mangoes and oranges.
The pit latrine, grass-thatched, is nestled in the mango garden close to the hedge, about 20m from the family’s mudand- wattle house. “When I started bearing children, one thing I feared was having children’s faeces littered all over the compound. The thought of a home littered with children’s waste and foul smell is disgusting.
So, as soon as I gave birth to my first daughter, we discussed it with my husband, Faustine Opangas and dug a pit latrine. At an appropriate age, we start teaching our children how to use a pit latrine,” Amusugut narrates, as her husband nods in approval. Despite the modesty her toilet conveys on first sight, inside is exceptionally clean. The walls are smoothened with mud, while the floor has been smeared with cowdung.
The pit is covered with a cut-out plastic jerrycan attached to a wooden handle. Just close to the door of the pit latrine is a pedal hand-washing facility dangling from a string tied on a pole — a model rural pit latrine! Out of the 18 sub-counties that make Tororo district, Molo, the home to 19,300 people spread out in four parishes, is the only area with all its 1,025 households having either a pit latrine or toilet.
On December 21, 2011, the sub-county was declared open defecation free, implying each home had a pit latrine. According to the 2012-2013 health survey, Peta sub-county with 99% of pit latrine coverage, Merikit at 96% and Mukujju at 94%, follow closely on the ladder. Kirewa trails in pit latrine coverage dangling at 42.7 %, followed by Mulanda at 50.3%.
Overall, the district, with a population of 500,300 people, has a total latrine coverage of 77.1%. In Uganda 23.8 million people (68%) of the total 35 million Ugandans have pit latrines, according to the health ministry. This implies 11.2 million people have no access to a pit latrine and defecate in the open. At the world level, 1.1 billion people of the 7.2 billion world
A young boy using a tippy tap in Molo
The cost of achieving total sanitation
Mixing faeces and water was one of the strategies
The journey to the peak combined efforts of the local district authorities, Plan Uganda, a local civil organisation and the community. Total sanitation implies that each household possesses a pit latrine, plate stand, drying line, refuse pit, kitchen and bath shelter, the first although priority was on pit latrines. Whereas Plan Uganda piloted the campaign in Molo, Kwapa and Osukuru sub-counties, the district shouldered the rest of the bulk.
According to Lausi Okoth, the lead Village Health Team (VHT) in Molo, the start-up was April 2010 in the Plan Uganda initiative called Total Led Sanitation. The strategy under this initiative was to stir the desire for achieving total sanitation right from the community. “By then, the pit latrine coverage in Molo sub county stood at 30%. So whenever we visited the community and found faeces in the bush, we would scoop and place it into a polythene bag. Thereafter, we call for a community meeting with households in the parish.”
“During the meeting, we would mix the faeces with water and dare anyone to drink it. They refused, we explain to them that the same way they have refused to drink the water is the manner in which they should treat open defecation because the rains ultimately sweep the faeces into the open spring wells from where they fetch water,” Okoth adds. Like in any other community, some households got the message and others had excuses for not having a latrine. These ranged from lack of money to dig the pit latrines, availability of cassava gardens to ease themselves, absence of husbands from home, while those who lived in water-logged areas said the pit latrines would cave in.
For stubborn residents, Molo sub-county council came up with a bylaw that all households must have a pit latrine. A fine of sh50,000 is levied on anyone who defied the law. “During monitoring, they would cut logs, sink the pit, cut grass and build the pit latrine for households that did not have. They would carry any animal or bird they came across in the home of the culprit as payment,” Okoth explains. Within six months, indications of change in the Total Sanitation campaign and benefits had started showing. Melex Okware, the Molo parish development officer observes that, even those who were reluctant to sink pit latrines were propelled to do so after witnessing the benefits from their neighbours.