TRANSITIONING FROM OPEN SPACES TO TOILETS

Until some time ago, if you wanted to attend nature’s call at the house of Desire (40) and his wife Marie Jose (38) in Kakoni village in Kyaka II refugee settlement, they would show you a nearby bush. But that is not the case anymore. They have built a toilet close to their house.

This was made possible with support from Oxfam, which is implementing a European Commission – funded project on integrated WASH and protection within Kyaka II refugee settlement. Through the project, Oxfam works to bring awareness about proper sanitation and hygiene practices to community members in this region who are mostly refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through Hygiene Promoters, Oxfam constantly encouraged the couple and neighbouring households to form groups of 6 through which they received materials to construct their household latrines.

“After forming our group of 6, Oxfam provided us with dome-shaped slabs, doors, nails, logs, poles, plastic sheeting and other materials needed to construct a latrine,” says Desire. With these materials, they were able to construct and complete their household latrine in a short time.

“We have learnt to keep our latrine clean and have our handwashing facility right outside the latrine. Nobody needs to teach me any more to wash my hands with soap and water after using the toilet,” said Marie Jose. She also notes that the idea of having a door on the latrine was new to her, but it is one she is grateful for because of the added privacy.

This change however did not happen overnight. Marie Jose, for instance, had a long experience of using open places for toilet purposes, she found it difficult to use the communal latrines that were in place. She said they were usually unclean, since most community members had no ownership of them, and so most would abscond from ensuring their cleanliness. The communal latrines were also far and she felt unsafe moving far in the night, hence her resorting to the nearby bushes. “I can now use my personal latrine whenever I want to,” she said.

Her husband has also changed himself, and he now takes part in cleaning campaigns. He says he now understands the importance of drinking clean water and storing drinking water in closed and safe containers.

“I now know that maintaining hygiene can save lives,” Marie Jose says adding, “And I ask Oxfam to support all those who have not constructed latrines to be able to do so.”

In order to promote hygiene and good health, Oxfam has been helping people in different communities construct latrines, and also endeavour to make Kyaka II refugee settlement an open defecation free area. I cannot wait to finish my latrine and be able to use it, like my neighbours use theirs,” Georgine, another refugee residing in Kakoni zone in Kyaka II settlement said.

Since the start of the European Union funded project in 2019, Oxfam and its partners have built more than 500 household latrines which are in use in Kyaka II refugee settlement.