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Urban CLTS: Establishing roots in Nairobi County

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It’s long since we last contributed to the blog. However, a lot has been going on. The Urban CLTS program has attracted a lot of interest from other organisations and more so the government. Since the last training we conducted for the City Council of Nairobi officers (now the Nairobi City County), there has been tremendous progress in communities. I have been impressed by the innovations by both the communities and County officers. They have taken it upon themselves to ensure that they embed the Urban CLTS methodology within their day to day work and activities. The Community Development section has established an Urban CLTS working committee that is mandated to provide guidance and coordination to all UCLTS initiatives within the section. The zeal and commitment by officers who have been continuously working ensure that all communities achieve ODF is amazing.

It is interesting to note that for the first time, there are attempts to bring together the different departments within the county of Nairobi to work together on improvement of Sanitation and hygiene. The champions within the government have been lobbying internally and of course I have been pushing to ensure that the Ministry of Health puts focus on urban CLTS.

During the last quarter of year 2012/13, the MoH included Urban CLTS targets in the performance contracts of all Public Health Officers in Nairobi. This prompted a demand for training for PHOs to equip them with skills that would make their implementation a success. With pleasure, we have managed to train the first team of 40 public health officers from Kasarani, Makadara and Starehe. This adds value to the already existing efforts that we have done hence increased support and the area of coverage.

We conducted the training in April 2013 in Partnership with APHIA+. As usual, CLTS training are interesting and this was not any different. On the first day, the Public Health Officers were very sceptical of the new things they would learn. They felt quite demeaned given they were just directed to attend these ‘sanitation workshop’. I mean, ‘What don’t they know about sanitation?’ In attendance were two chiefs who amazingly stayed in the training from the first day to the last one. Day two was the marked with anticipation. The anxiety, the shame and the curiosity started burning in them. They could not believe that they did not know most of the things they heard.

They slowly moved from the shame of talking about ‘shit’, to mentioning it by name. This was interesting because on the first day, none of them could admit that they have ever defecated in the open. In fact, they even covered up the existence of ‘open defecation’ in their areas of work. By the third day, they were convinced that there is a problem but the ‘professionalism’ in them meant that they could not imagine that they were going to trigger. The fact that they are Public Health Officers also created a hot debate on how they were going to introduce themselves because they are the ones mandated to provide sanitation and hygiene education. ‘So how do we just tell communities that if they want to continue defecating in the open it is their problem’? Nevertheless, they reached a compromise and agreed that they would not lie to the communities given that they are already known in most of the villages.

The mock triggering was the landmark shift. After several attempts we were confident that they could now trigger communities. On the fourth day, we were all out in three different villages despite bad weather and managed to trigger. We made great progress with the triggering and the following day community members attended the training workshop to demonstrate their commitments.

Am happy that we are increasing the champions in Urban CLTS and soon we shall have it entrenched fully within the county system, who knows! I will tell you more as we proceed.

Rose Nyawira works for Plan Kenya's Urban CLTS Programme

Date: 6 June 2013