Hygiene and sanitation in Ethiopia are big issues, and five communities have celebrated significant milestones this month.
Lifewater health promoters certified each of these small villages, or gares, as a Healthy Village. Dubula, Hora, Lencha, Shayite, Shorimahese–these were the first five gares selected to work with Lifewater in the Hade Kebele (a larger municipality, like a district), and health promoters have been visiting and working alongside families here for a year and a half. The fact that all five earned a Healthy Village certification is a big win for their future.
Becoming a healthy community is no easy task. In order to earn it, over 90% of the homes in a community need to be certified as Healthy Homes. Members of Healthy Homes are drinking safe water, using latrines, keeping a clean compound, and using good hygiene practices like handwashing and dish drying racks. Additionally, each healthy community must have a clean environment, earn ODF (open-defecation free) status, and demonstrate a functioning water committee made up of men and women in the community.
In Dubula, Hora, Lencha, Shayite and Shorima, community members gathered for a graduation ceremony where they were presented with certificates and congratulated by local government officials.
Beyond the ceremony, these communities gained a better future. Poor hygiene and sanitation in Ethiopia has a significant impact on health. In the West Arsi region of Ethiopia where these communities are located, only 1% of the population has access to a safe, dignified latrine. Preventable, water-borne diseases like diarrhea are common and keep kids out of school and parents out of work. In West Arsi, only half of the school-age children attend school. Now that they are drinking safe water, using effective latrines, and utilizing good hygiene, the most vulnerable lives will be saved and health, education, and productivity will improve.
Perhaps most importantly, all of this work was done by the community. Health promoters provided information, demonstrations, and constant encouragement, but ultimately it was the families living in the gares that constructed latrines, handwashing stations, and drying racks. It was the families who voluntarily changed their longstanding behaviors to help themselves and those around them. It was the community that gathered and selected leaders to help them sustain their progress. With this big win under their belt, these five gares are ready and equipped to take on new challenges.
“Even driving down the road, you can tell where Lifewater health promoters have worked because there are latrines at every household,” said Lindsay Lange, Lifewater’s Director of Program Quality observed after a recent visit. “Community members would tell us that others from out of town would stop and ask to take pictures of their latrines because they had not seen them before and wanted one for themselves.”
Lifewater will begin working to improve sanitation in Ethiopia with new gares in Hade Kebele this month, but health promoters will continue to monitor the first five gares for another year and half to ensure that the changes stick and life gets better for these vulnerable children and families.
Congratulations Dubula, Hora, Lencha, Shayite and Shorima!