Aiming for the Right Spot

May 26, 2011

 Districts in Indonesia have submitted latrine “contracts” to fight open defecation.

814 Constructing latrines is cheaper than buying them, and saves communities $100 or more per toilet. (Photo credit: UNICEF Cambodia)

Even though eight out of 10 households in a district in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province, near Timor-Leste, have latrines, less than half of them are used, according to local officials, who are trying out social latrine “contracts”.

“Every family should have and use latrines. So we are creating a village regulation, a legal umbrella [to achieve this],” said the village chief of Napa, in the province’s Timor Tengah Selatan District.

Diarrhoea is the district’s biggest killer, said Cornelis Metta, head of counselling and health promotion in the district Health Ministry office. “People defecate in any place and people just do not realize the importance of washing their hands with soap and water before drinking,” he said.

The district has nearly 100,000 households, or 416,876 people, according to the most recent local census.

One afternoon in late February, volunteers went door to door in nearby Lanu village to explain the importance of water conservation and latrines. Five families agreed to build family latrines, signing “contracts” that were then countersigned by representatives of three levels of government.

The “contracts” bind signatories to build and use their latrines.

It matters little the quality of the latrines built, said a village sanitation official who goes by one name, Sabarudin. “The target is not the quality, but awareness of the importance of latrines, the desire to have one and to use it for defecation,” he explained.

When asked if there were penalties or fines for people who broke a “contract”, officials said shame is a “heavy price to pay in village settings and enforcement was not a concern”.

Based on the 2010 nationwide health survey, (RISKESDAS) 21.6 %jof people in NTT Province practice open defecation, while nationwide the figure is 17.2%.

And their rubbish? Four out of 10 people nationally toss it in sewers, 18.9 %straight on the ground and 14.9 %in open dumps.