Household latrines help families in Balongga, Indonesia stay healthy during COVID-19

CWS Indonesia | May 12, 2020

    Azizah in front of her family’s new toilet. Photo: CWS

    A September 2018 earthquake in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, destroyed or badly damaged most houses in Balongga village. There, and elsewhere, countless people became homeless. Today, 20 months since the disaster, many families still live in so-called temporary (T) shelters. These were built with international support in the disaster’s immediate wake. They are called temporary. But, they have two or three rooms and are well-built. So, families say they will live in them for years to come. Yet, there is a key problem: they do not have toilets.

    With a priority focus on water, sanitation, and hygiene in humanitarian and development initiatives, CWS sought funding to address this issue. Fortunately, the Japan Platform was willing to partner to families and community leaders in Balongga and other villages to solve the problem. And so, the CWS team joined 273 families in 14 villages to build safe, sanitary toilets at individual “T” homes.

    Also, in Balongga and other villages, CWS-supported volunteer Community Health Promotors to lead hygiene and sanitation info-sharing and Q&A sessions. And these volunteers have recruited neighbors to continue gatherings to share more information. They also give everyone a chance to ask questions, get answers and share information from their own experiences. Of course, the conversations move well beyond water, sanitation, hygiene, which is good to help everyone move on to new lives.

    Azizah and Dwi live in Balongga and both now have a family toilet. During a recent visit with CWS team members, Azizah shared this, “I feel grateful because we now have our own toilet. And I now know more about hygiene. The Promotors reminded us about behaviors that help us create and keep a clean, healthy home environment. For example, we heard about the basics of community-based total sanitation: stop open defecation, wash hands with soap, protect safe drinking water and manage household waste properly”.

    In recent weeks, as the scale of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) grew, the Promoters also shared information about COVID-19 and how to prevent COVID-19 infection and spread.

    Related to this, Dwi added, “Now that we have our own toilet, I don’t have to worry about the physical distancing rules [for shared public spaces]. Since we no longer use the communal latrines, which is good, [we are safer]”. Azizah chimed in, “I agree! And, since we’ve had our own sanitary toilet, my children no longer have diarrhea”.

    In sanitation projects across southeast Asia, CWS and our CROP Hunger Walk donors – who have gone virtual during the COVID19 crisis – support families to end their hunger and poverty. One benefit of ending poverty is the possibility to have a safe latrine or toilet. This, in turn, helps change hygiene and sanitation behavior for good. There is less preventable disease, like diarrhea. The good cascades forward with healthier children able to play and learn and grow. Families can spend hard-earned income on clean, safe water and better, more nutritious food rather than medicines and clinic visits. The good grows.

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