Dhamar villagers work to eliminate exposed human waste
SDF teams work with locals and help them build covered toilets as a means of eliminating the problem of human waste left in the open. The teams consist of university graduates and are composed equally of males and females.
On the evening of Monday, May 7, Ahmed found himself among villagers coming out to receive the SDF consultants. The visitors were scrutinizing toilet pits, which he had never thought about much before, as no one objected to children defecating outdoors. The SDF team was divided into four smaller teams and deployed to four areas of the village.
Ahmed and his friends were the group of children targeted by the first team. The children drew their village map in the earth. In other parts of the village, the rest of the villagers did the same. Members of each group were asked to introduce themselves to the team members to help the teams present their tasks and objectives on an individual level. The teams’ mission was coordinated with village leaders.
The purpose of the map was to illustrate the locations of sanitary facilities, the sewers of the school and the mosque, and to demarcate covered or exposed toilet pits. The map also included roads, water sources and open areas containing human waste. The locals were encouraged to answer questions about human waste and ways to dispose of it.
The teams intentionally made the locals feel embarrassed and scared by mentioning the diseases resulting from leaving their waste in the open.
Nabeel Al-Bouha, a member of the team working with village children, threw a piece of candy near some excrement so that the children could see how flies moved from the waste to the candy and back. Seeing revulsion on their faces, Nabeel Al-Bouha asked the children, “Who wants that candy?” The children were silent. The other three teams did similar things to stir disgust in the men and women of the village for leaving excrement in the open.
The team presented detailed descriptions of the diseases transmitted by flies feeding on exposed human waste. The SDF began giving such presentations in its campaign first launched in 2009.
Al-Bouha told the children that flies, dogs, and chickens coming in contact with the waste can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever, cholera, and typhoid, in addition to polluting local water sources.
The map was intended to help the villagers to plan next steps to deal with human waste. Information was added to the map, with houses marked according to whether they had covered or exposed sanitation facilities. In the Al-Majil quarter in the center of the village, there were 28 houses with covered toilets. Only two houses had exposed toilets.
The teams stressed the gravity of the problem by asking villagers to calculate the quantity of waste left in the open. Those with covered toilets were made to feel wary of their neighbors with exposed toilets or those who left their waste outdoors.
According to the residents of Al-Majil, an individual releases around 250 grams of excrement in a single “session.” This amounts to 450kg a month of excrement from all the residents. These figures are used to calculate hospitalization costs were a villager with a disease resulting from exposed human waste to be sent in for treatment. The locals estimated the cost of sending a sick villager to the nearest hospital at YR 15,000, excluding medication fees.
This potentially high costs of illness from human waste pushed Ahmed and his friends to stage a protest against unsanitary practices and to volunteer to bury as much human waste as they can. In the meantime, the village leadership consulted the SDF teams on ways to create a comprehensive sanitary system in the village.
A key tenet of the project was to leave it to the locals to draw up their own sanitation plans for the future. Mr. Mohammed Al-Ja’aouri, chairman of Development Pioneers, one of the four SDF teams, delegated the task of follow-up on sanitation planning to Mr. Mohammed Ali Ja’afar, a local leader.
Ja’afar was tasked with communicating with the residents of Al-Majil and making sure that they draw up sanitation plans, which were presented and approved two days later at the awareness teams' headquarters in Dhamar. At Al-Baradouni Hall in Dhamar, where the awareness teams received their intensive training, Ja’afar presented the villagers' final plan for a sanitary system that can be implemented within one month.
Asmahan Al-Faqih, awareness officer at the SDF branch in Dhamar, said that she expected Al-Qahir village to be completely free of exposed feces soon. “It's something the Fund feels is worth celebrating when a village is declared as having a full sanitation system,” she continued.
The sanitary camping also includes lectures on the importance of cleanliness and methods for cleaning the body, as well as Islamic teachings concerning hygiene.
Team members also gave villagers lessons on the best practices for purifying water, including boiling methods, using sun rays, sand tanks, and clay filters.
Mr. Abdullah Musallam, awareness officer at the SDF water and environment unit, said that the SDF intends to educate people on ways to use human waste to produce methane gas to be used as an alternative to diesel by storing the excrement in tightly-sealed tanks. “The SDF will help the locals with consultants and technicians in this field,” he explained.