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Health is Coming

“Over there – a latrine.”

“Yep, I see one there.”

“That one looks great.”

“They were creative with their walls.”

“Wow – that one is fancy.”

“Yes, let’s walk a little further and see what we see.”

These are the type of comments that come out of my mouth when I walk through communities — in Asia, in Africa — anywhere we work. It is almost like looking at a “Where is Waldo” drawing – except instead of looking for a little man in a red and white stripped shirt, I am looking for latrines. Yes, I care about the community water systems (such as wells and cisterns), but they are relatively easy to find and talk about. As I walk through a community, I want to know if families are building and using latrines. This is important because it is transformative to the health of a community. Instead of defecating in the open where feces are left to contaminate water and so much more, they are contained in a pit. And, when constructed properly, women and girls have a place during the day where they can use the toilet with privacy and dignity.

Why am I talking so passionately about latrines? I was just in Cambodia where I spent time walking through 5 villages where Lifewater has been working for the past year. In these villages, there are 352 new latrines in 1 year. As I walked, I spotted latrine after latrine. Not every home has a latrine (yet), but the increase in numbers is astounding. 352 families now have a private place to use the toilet. 352 families are keeping their family and community healthier.

Not one of these latrines was built by us—each one was built by a family based on their new understanding of WASH and how to keep their family healthy. Now their neighbors are learning from them, and more families are talking about building latrines for their families. When I talked to some of these families, I heard about children being sick less and fewer trips to the clinic. Health is coming.

Then, I visited a village where we hope to start work later this year. As we walked, the difference was astounding. There was a complete absence of latrines. We stopped to talk with an old woman, who said that people used the fields, that they did not have latrines. Next year, I hope for  transformation to come to this village as well.