In late November 2016 a host of provincial and local government leaders came together to celebrate with the 13 northern Vietnamese villages of Quan Chu Commune – and with CWS staff – for reaching their goal 100% of households latrine coverage, making it the first commune among all of Thai Nguyen Province’s 180 communes to achieve this aim. This outstanding result was by no means easy because Quan Chu Commune is remote and mountainous with many difficulties, including a limited level of general knowledge among most villagers as well as pervasive poverty.
Quan Chu’s back story is this: A 2014 survey before the CWS-ELCA-community partnership for a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) project showed only 41.5% of households with sanitary latrines. Most people defecated in the forest or streams, and all kinds of garbage, including inorganic waste and pesticide containers, littered and polluted most villages. Annually, there were nearly 200 reported cases of water-borne and/or pollution-related diseases, including eye infections, diarrhea, respiratory ailments and skin diseases. To help communities face this situation, and with government concurrence, CWS introduced the CLTS idea to local duty bearers to help them canvass all households and then mobilize participation in CLTS activation events to raise villagers’ awareness, help them improve their knowledge and change their attitudes for safer behavior.
Importantly, during CLTS awareness-raising events, several latrine models were explained and then there were technical training sessions with hands-on experience in building latrines. Additionally, the CWS team also hosted workshops to share information and further raise awareness about health and environmental threats that can be reduced or even eliminated with simple garbage management – like separating organic and inorganic waste for safe disposal “banana circles” and garbage pits, respectively. In addition to raising people’s awareness and knowledge for behavior change, NEW IDEA included advocacy to government duty bearers as well as continuing technical assistance and support for sustainability. Also, the project honors individuals and villages for their good efforts and achievements in advocating and mobilizing to end open defecation.
Now, after nearly three years, all 13 Quan Chu villages are certified and recognized as Open Defecation Free (ODF).
Speaking at the celebration, Mr. Nguyen Van Truong, Deputy Director of Thai Nguyen Provincial Health Department, and Mr. Nguyen Manh Hoat, Vice Chairman of Dai Tu District People’s Committee, highly appreciated CWS support and cooperation with local duty bearers in introducing and efficiently implementing the CLTS initiative. They both committed to replicate the CLTS method and use lessons learned from Quan Chu Commune in other districts in the province. They also expressed their wish for CWS to continue journeying with Dai Tu district in its efforts to develop a new rural model, in which the healthy behavior among families in Quan Chu becomes the norm throughout Vietnam.