Households investing in improved latrines

Woman laughing

Clementine Nyirahabineza, a mother of seven children aged between six and 22 years old, lives in Rutovu village, in Mukamira sector, Nyabihu district.

A farmer, seasonally rotating potatoes, maize, and beans, she has a steady flow of income that has enabled her to meet the basic needs for her family, including education for all her seven children.

Despite her regular income, investing in an improved latrine was not a priority for a long time. The family’s latrine was made of only three wooden logs laid across a pit, with no walls or roofing. As a result, the children would often fall ill due to exposed feces attracting flies and other disease transmitting pests into the homestead.

In August 2018, to improve the hygiene and sanitation status of residents, local leaders and community health club committee (CHC) members in Mukamira sector, made regular door to door visits to sensitize communities on proper sanitation and hygiene, including the importance of improved latrines in reducing illnesses. Through the regular sensitizations, households started to change their mindsets on investing in improved latrines to safeguard the health of their families.

“Our old latrine was in a really bad state. The children did not use it consistently due to fear of falling into the pit, so often they would openly defecate. If you had visited us then, you would have found feces all over the compound. While my children frequently fell ill, I never related their illnesses to the unhygienic pit we were using. I always shrugged it off but after the local leaders’ visited me and helped me to understand the importance of an improved latrine, I decided to construct a good latrine for the sake of my family’s health,” said Clementine.

Clementine’s family latrine

Clementine’s family latrine

Locally made hand washing station

Locally made hand washing station

With only RWF 20,000 she bought a wooden door, iron sheets and some timber logs. With the help of her son Maurice, a second year high school student, they constructed an improved latrine. Maurice has basic construction skills gained from his coursework in school hence constructing the latrine structure was a relatively manageable task.

Clementine is now a role model as many admire her latrine and are inspired to use their own resources to construct improved latrines.

In collaboration with local district authorities, Rutovu village has been pre-declared as open defecation free with its entire population of 864 [1] people or 201 households having access to improved latrines.

Isuku Iwacu is working across eight districts in Rwanda to move households up the sanitation ladder in order to improve their health outcomes, including reducing stunting in children below five years. By building the capacity of local authorities and CHCs on basic sanitation and hygiene practices, they are empowered with skills and knowledge to mobilize and sensitize communities on the benefits of improved latrines.

Households, such as Clementine’s, are encouraged to prioritize sanitation and to invest their own resources or to support each other to construct improved latrines and hand-washing stations.  Consequently, local authorities own the process of pre-declaring the villages as open defecation free. Using gained skills and knowledge from Isuku Iwacu, they can also train other villages and sectors on how to mobilize communities to construct improved latrines

“We feel dignified, my children are proud of it. No one is ashamed or terrified to use the latrine now.” - Clementine

SNV is implementing USAID’s Isuku Iwacu project from 2016 to 2020. The project aims to help 500,000 Rwandans gain access to improved household sanitation, and will work to ensure that about 137 villages of target districts live in open-defecation free environments, with the overall goal of decreasing childhood stunting. The Consortium implementing Isuku Iwacu is led by SNV in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, and also includes international NGOs World Vision and Water for People, as well as several private sector partners, Rwandan NGOs, and Rwandan capacity building organisations.

Written by Minnie N. Karanja.