Did you know that 1.1 billion people around the world practice open defecation?
Did you also know that 500 of these 1.1 billion people who practice open defecation until recently included a small rural community in Xayira Village, Sool region?
World Toilet Day is observed annually on 19 November. The commemorative day aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the existing global sanitation challenge, according to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the World Toilet Organization (WTO).
Although the United Nations recognised sanitation as a human right in 2010, the people of Xayira had few places where they could urinate or defecate in privacy.
And in the desert and scrubland of Xayira, it was an everyday struggle, according to village leader Elmi Mohammed.
“We avoided chopping down any small trees or large shrubs. We saved them so that our people could have some privacy,” he said.
According to Ismail Mohammed, Medair Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Officer, women were particularly affected. “They could only answer the call of nature during the very early morning hours or after dark, risking their lives because of the insecurity,” Mr. Mohammed said.
Access to sanitation is essential for the full enjoyment of human life, yet globally some 2.5 billion people have no safe and clean private toilet.
“Before Medair came to Xayira Village, there were no latrines here,” said Patty Hutton, WASH Manager. “Medair was the first non-governmental organisation to work here.”
In early 2012, Medair began constructing latrines for the people of Xayira.
“The community is very eager to participate in the process,” said Patty. “They dig the pits and we provide them with a concrete slab and the iron sheets and timber to build the walls.”
The construction is a collaborative effort between Medair and a local partner, Islamic Relief Committee (IsRC). To date, Medair has built 38 latrines in Xayira.
Patty said that construction “costs about USD 200 per latrine,” a small price to pay to safeguard the human rights of this community.
“We cannot really compare what life was like before Medair built us latrines, because we only had open defecation,” said Mr. Mohammed. “The people are very happy and they now hesitate to go into the bush.”
Medair’s work in Somalia/Somaliland is supported by Swiss Solidarity, Chaine du Bonheur, OFDA, the E.C. Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development, Woord en Daad, Help a Child, EO Metterdaad, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and private donations from Medair supporters.
Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991. Its independence has not been recognised by the international community.
This feature was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.