Province-wide ODF by 2024, commits 15 districts in Savannakhet Lao PDR

Picture of three wells.

Fifteen district governments commit to province-wide ODF by 2024 during a Savannakhet Provincial Health Department-hosted meeting

With support from SNV, the Savannakhet Provincial Health Department organised a two-day meeting from 29 to 30 September 2020, with the participation of 15 district governors (or deputy governors) and heads of all district health departments to discuss and sign district commitments to achieve open-defecation-free (ODF) status by 2024.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Deputy Provincial Governor, Mr Viengthavisone Theppachanh and the Provincial Health Director, Dr Sengdao Sydalay. The chief guest was Mr Kongkgam Meeboun, Director of the National Centre of Environmental Health and Rural Water Supply (Namsaat) in the Ministry of Health. Other distinguished guests included representatives from the Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Planning and Investment Department, and the Provincial Health Department.

In his opening speech, the deputy provincial governor emphasised the importance of WASH for citizens’ health, quality of life, and ultimately, to society and the overall economic development in general. While Savannakhet has made some progress in sanitation coverage over the last five years, there are still many areas where poverty and the remote location of some groups prevent them from gaining access to adequate information, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. Amongst the province’s 15 districts, only two districts are ready to declare ODF; both are urban districts.

During the meeting, the 15 district governors and their technical staff worked in groups to review their current sanitation situation, and to agree on the annual number of target villages to achieve ODF in the coming years, during the period from 2020 to 2024.

Provincial Namsaat Director (L) with SNV and some district representatives

Provincial Namsaat Director (L) with SNV and some district representatives

The Provincial Health Director congratulated all 15 districts on the completion of their action plans to achieve ODF in all villages. He urged district teams to take strong ownership and leading roles in making the commitments a reality. He also encouraged all districts to incorporate these commitments into their respective five-year socio-economic development plans (2021-2025), at the same time, to make best use of the valuable support provided by development partners and INGOs working in Savannakhet.

Over the last two years, SNV has been strengthening the capacity of government officials, including senior managers and technical staff at provincial and districts levels, on various topics related to WASH, including Gender Equality and Social Inclusion. Dr Anoulack Louanglatbandith, Provincial Director of Namsaat, expressed his special thanks to SNV for the team’s capacity development and technical support. This support is being provided with financing from the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s flagship WASH programme – Water for Women. He particularly appreciated SNV’s close and collaborative partnership approach with the government to ensure that plans are well-designed and aligned with the government’s priorities and strategies.

Dr Anoulack also commented that he found the visual monitoring tools introduced by SNV to be very effective at community level. The monitoring tools also allow the district teams to track their own ODF progress and to engage in a healthy competition with other districts. Continuous learning by doing and regular reflection have strengthened the district team’s capacity and ownership of the work. He is confident that when the SNV project ends, the government will continue to sustain the momentum and scale up best practices in other districts.

Written by: Le Huong, WASH Sector Leader, SNV in Lao PDR

Photos: (Banner) Delivery of materials for toilet construction in progress, February 2020 (SNV/Bart Verweij) | Provincial Namsaat Director (L) with SNV and some district representatives proudly show 15 district-government ODF commitment sign-up sheet to delegation