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Verifying ODF in Chisamba

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This year’s Pan Africa annual review meeting has been yet another fascinating experience, bringing a rich set of African voices to share experiences, discuss challenges and develop action plans to achieve set objectives for the Plan Africa CLTS programme and combat Open Defecation in Africa.

Wednesday 5th March 2014 crowned our CLTS week in Zambia…we all went out to the field to conduct verifications of villages to confirm whether or not they were ODF.
I joined the group that went to Chamuka chiefdom in Chisamba district …we first stopped at Chief Chamuka’s palace to seek permission to conduct verifications in his village. Chief Chamuka had been with us for the past two days of the meeting at the hotel, brainstorming with us and sharing his experience. Amazing how we all respectfully walked into the chiefdom, and humbly went on our knees awaiting his permission. “You may sit down, and feel most welcome to my village,” said chief Chamuka after our spokesperson Mr Wiscot Mwanza, told him the reason for our visit.
“My people and I are committed to ensuring that this chiefdom attains the highest levels of sanitation,” said Chief Chamuka. “We are a farming community and we all need to be in good health in order to farm and boost our economy as well as ensure that children go to school, we cannot be in good health if open defecation is taking place! We need a disease free environment and that is everyone’s responsibility,” he added..

Chief Chamuka commended Plan International and all other partners for strongly supporting sanitation efforts through CLTS.
With words of thanks from us, we were allowed to begin our verifications, and the first stop was Chamuka primary school.
Chamuka primary school is indeed keen on maintaining high levels of hygiene they have built four latrines, two for girls and two for boys, “The children are responsible for keeping the latrines clean with the help of the teachers. They take turns to clean and there is always water to wash their hands,” explained the deputy headmistress. “We have plans of upgrading the latrines into better facilities, to ensure maximum comfort and sustainability of SLTS,” she added.

We split further into 3 groups and moved into 3 villages within the chiefdom. My group was led by Geoffrey Kabdula the headman of Chisupa village. He is in charge of 23 households. Indeed most of the households we visited met all the standards of being ODF, although there were three households whose latrines were not up to the required standards.
Mr Charles Chiposh, a father of 6, runs an entertainment club located opposite his homestead. I was impressed by his commitment to excellent hygiene conditions… he has constructed two latrines within the business compound, the latrines for each gender, are used by customers and are indeed very clean! “I have run this business for 10 years and for me, the whole idea is to ensure that we avoid diseases that can result from open defecation. I want my customers to be in good health, that way my business thrives and my children are able to go to school,” said Charles.

“We are very impressed with the efforts made by all of you! Your latrines are excellent except few that need to be rectified, otherwise, this village is definitely on its way to being certified as ODF!,” said Mulugeta Balecha Programme manager at Plan USA when giving feedback to the community members of Chisupa village after the verification exercise.
In response, Geoffrey Kabdula the headman appreciated   our visit and on behalf of the village members, he said “We have tried to ensure that there is a latrine in all households. For the ones that have not met the standards, I can assure you that we will come together as a community to see how we can best support the three households to construct better latrines and in 14 days, this will be done.”

Patricia Nangoyi, Plan Zambia Health Co-ordinator at Chibombo PU said  “Talking about ‘SHIT’ did not go without challenges. My team was in the group that went to verify Kachili village in Keembe, Chibombo District. But before the team could reach the village the bus they were travelling in got stuck in the stream and it took some good two hours before it was pulled out from that stream and this was after calling for help from another team which was verifying in another village within the same area. However the verification was done for 8 households and they all met the ODF criteria: A latrine with a superstructure to provide privacy and a smooth floor; a hand washing station with soap or ash; no sign of OD around the surrounding; a lid to cover the pit… it was indeed a great learning experience for all of us!

We met the following morning and discussed our experiences and observations. What became apparent throughout the three days meeting is that there are lots of innovations and insights within the areas of gender, urban sanitation, behavior change and sanitation marketing.  Each country has an area where they have excelled. Having listened to the experiences and advise from each other and looked at the results of the ODF sustainability study, each country have their plans of action  for 2014/2015 outlining their 3 key points of action. We look forward to strengthened ties with all key players towards an Open Defecation Free Africa!

Caroline Nyamamu is the Communications Specialist at Plan RESA (Region of East and Southern Africa).

Date: 11 March 2014
Pan Africa,