Aruo is happy that her two children are now enjoying good health, thanks to knowldge she obtained on the significance of embracing good hygiene and proper sanitation. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.
Aruo is happy that her two children are now enjoying good health, thanks to the knowledge that she obtained through the support of World Vision on the significance of good hygiene and proper sanitation in Turkana County, Kenya. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

Good hygiene and toilet use improve the health status of communities in Turkana

By Sarah Ooko, World Vision Senior Communications & Media Specialist, Kenya

It is a time for celebration among communities in Katukuri village, located in Turkana County, Kenya.

Women, men and children are dancing vigorously as they sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for their good health.

Families in this area value the quality of life they are currently living and do not take it for granted.

Residents of Katukuri Village in Turkana County were glad that their home declared Open Defecation Free by the County Government. World Vision suppors
Residents of Katukuri Village dancing and thanking God for their good health as a result of good hygiene and proper sanitation. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

 

This is because they remember too well, the agony that the community used to go through as a result of hygiene related diseases that were common in the area.

They included cholera and dysentery that can be life threatening, as well as diarrhoea, which is a major cause of child deaths in Kenya. Trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness globally, was also common in the area.

Unknown to many families at the time, these diseases were rampant as a result of open defecation that was widely practiced in the community.

xxxx
Community members being sensitised on the importance of good hygiene and sanitation, through the support of World Vision. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

 

As per their culture and traditional way of life, they did not believe in building toilets or using them.

"We used to just relieve ourselves in the bushes. Every household had its own section of land near bushes or forests that was designated for this purpose," says Aruo, a mother of five children.

"We did not know that the faeces left behind were contaminating our water bodies and making us sick. They were also providing breeding sites for flies, which contaminated our food and acted as carriers for trachoma that was a big problem here, " she says.

The community became aware of the hazards linked to open defecation as a result of the massive awareness campaigns conducted by World Vision in partnership with UNICEF and the Turkana County Government, thanks to funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

awareness
World Vision promotes good hygiene practices such as washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

 

This awareness campaign followed a public health approach known as Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which is aimed at mobilising communities to take collective action - through building toilets with locally available material and using them - so as to create open defecation free villages.

This goal was eventually achieved through the support of influencers such as community health volunteers, elders, as well as women and men groups.

"We all have toilets here, as well as hand washing facilities to promote good hygiene. Children and families in this village now enjoy good health and we no longer fear that our young ones will die from diarrhoea diseases," notes Aruo.

Happy kids
Aruo built a basic pit latrine using locally available material and put a tippy tap next to it, to encourage her children and other people to wash their hands after using the toilet.©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

 

The time and financial resources that parents previously used to take care of frequently sick children, has now been channelled towards agriculture and other income generating activities.

They include bead making, running grocery stores among others which are cushioning them from the adverse effects of climate change like prolonged droughts that affect agricultural productivity.

More kids
Children in Katukuri village are healthy and happy as they no longer suffer from frequent diarrhoea and abdominal pains , caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. ©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.

 

World Vision is empowering these communities to thrive, under its Strengthening Community Resilience to Climate Change Through Promotion of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Service (SCORE) project.

"The change we have seen here is inspiring. And we are now keen on replicating these successes in other villages until the whole of Turkana attains the Open Defecation Free status," states Benson Marwa, the World Vision project officer in-charge of the SCORE project in Turkana.