Health Project: Tackling open defecation through triggering

By Shaun Avis – Health Project Volunteer 5 years ago
Categories Uncategorized

The blog about bog (aka. Poo , faeces, wastage, kunya, mierda, cachu, kakka, episteyo, merde)… This will be an unusual blog for you guys to read, and yes those with a weak stomach are not advised to read on, this blog will be centered on the attempt to educate a small community about the health problems associated with public defecation.

The “Open defecation free” campaign was set up by the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in order to eradicate open defecation throughout rural Kenya by 2013 (open defecation involves defecating in a public area; usually in a small hole or just on the grass/ground, without using any type of toilet/sanitary environment). This campaign was set as a goal for rural Kenya by the Kenyan government in accordance with reaching “Millennium Development Goals” set out by the UN to optimistically, but relatively effectively improve quality of life, health and reduce poverty worldwide.

Working as a nurse in Australia means that defecation is no new shock to me, although the idea of public defecation was an interesting concept at first. So it all began with a 40 minute walk from base at Shimoni, to the small community of Anzuwani , where person to toilet ratio is much below where its needed to be and where public defecation is common.

The community outreach team was out in force with nearly 15 community health workers attending, along with the Shimoni Public Health Officer and the Deputy Chief of Anzuwani. The concept behind stopping public defecation was the use of a technique called “triggering”. According to the health minister, the process of triggering involved certain steps which revealed the public defecation to the community very ‘publicly’ in order to shock/embarrass the community into making changes to stop the public defecation (changes mostly centered around a ‘community-run’ building of toilets.)

The first step involved the health minister and deputy chief addressing the community and asking them women and men to split up into groups and create a map of the Anzuwani on the ground. After each map was created, the toilets and wells were highlighted, and then so where the areas in which common defecation occurred. The health minister and deputy chief then walked around with the community to the ‘defecation’ (poo) areas and collected some poo without the public knowing of what they were doing. The final step involved offering the community some clean food and bottled drinking water to have and then after having these luxuries the bottled drinking water and clean food was then offered again. This time human poo was placed in the drinking water and smeared onto the bread, no one obviously accepted the food/drink.

The idea behind these tactics is that the faecal matter can easily contaminate water and food sources if it is not disposed of hygienically.  After a few orations by the public health officer and deputy chief (which although in Swahili, and I couldn’t really understand, were still very up-lifting and effective) the community agreed to start changing their sanitation habits and to build more faecal disposal areas throughout the town.

Shaun Avis – Health Project Volunteer