On 20 February, an “institutional triggering” event was initiated in Laulara, Aileu Municipality, with over 50 representatives from local authorities and village councils.
Institutional triggering is when municipality and administrative post leaders set an open defecation free (ODF) target and all levels of government are encouraged to become actively involved in its implementation. Ensuring all government representatives are engaged in an ODF campaign is critical to its success.
Aileu Municipality is aiming to be ODF by 20 May 2017, with Laulara Administrative Post planning to declare ODF status ahead of this date.
The session was led by Januario Mesquita, Head of Sanitation in Aileu Municipality.
“Sanitation is important to this community and also relates to human dignity,” he said. “We want to keep going so that sanitation can continue into the future.”
Human waste in the environment makes people sick
One in three Timorese people defecate outside because they do not have access to a toilet. Using the environment as a toilet brings people into contact with human waste. Water sources used for growing food, cooking and drinking become contaminated which makes people sick. In Timor-Leste, diarrhea is often caused by poor sanitation and hygiene, and is the second highest contributor to child mortality and stunting rates in children under five.
Through the PHD program, Australia is supporting Plan International Timor-Leste to achieve open defecation free status in the municipalities of Aileu and Ainaro in 2017.
“Just one person defecating outside can introduce harmful germs into the environment, compromising an entire community’s health,” said Terence McCaughan from Plan International Timor-Leste. “When everyone has access to a toilet, it prevents the spread of human waste into water and food sources, improving the health and nutrition of all children and families.”
Plan International will engage and support Administrative Posts and civil society partners to work with communities to encourage toilet usage. Private sector capacity and skills will also be developed to provide quality and affordable sanitation options for communities.
Mobilising a whole-of-community commitment to end open defecation
Institutional triggering is a key part of the community-led total sanitation approach being used to address poor sanitation in Timor-Leste. The approach encourages communities to change their sanitation and hygiene behaviours without prescribing to them how it should be done. Rather than target behaviour change activities at the individual and household-level, entire communities are mobilised who then collectively commit to not defecating in the open.
With the support of local government, the community then decides how their commitment will be implemented and monitored. Toilets are constructed using community leadership and local resources, with limited outside assistance.
Bobonaro success being rolled out nationally
After the successful ODF status declaration by Bobonaro Municipality in 2015, the ODF Secretariat in Aileu invited former Bobonaro Administrator, Domingos Martins, to share his experience as an ODF initiator.
“Water and sanitation are important for Timor-Leste,” said Mr. Martins. “The partners work to address the basic needs of communities in rural areas and to implement the program that has been planned by the government.”
Bobonaro Municipality successfully increased household toilet coverage from 47% to 91% in just 11 months using the same community-led approach now being used in Aileu.
Findings from an evaluation of the Bobonaro initiative are shaping a national action plan to make all municipalities in Timor-Leste ODF by 2021. The evaluation report, commissioned by PHD’s Sanitation Adviser, Heather Moran, found that ODF success was strongly influenced by Municipal Administration leadership, in conjunction with community-level triggers and follow-up.
“The main driver behind Bobonaro households adopting toilet usage was embarrassment, along with health, privacy and security for women, and good citizenship for men,” said Ms. Moran. “Lessons learned in Bobonaro can be used as a model in other communities with poor sanitation.”