Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Sanitation is life"

It is a sunny morning in the stony fields near Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda, outside of a village called Nyarutosho. A man with a hoe, a spade and a pick is digging a hole, and his a young boy is collecting stones nearby. His name is Mr. Jonas, and he and his son have begun the long, physical process of building a latrine.

“I miss having a good latrine because I know that we could have good hygiene and live healthier”, says Mr. Jonas, a resident of Nyarutosho who hopes that by building a latrine, his children will stop getting sick. “We are going to care for our valuable life”.

The rest of the village feels the same way, having adopted the motto, “Sanitation is life.” This belief is why Mr. Jonas and other 59 residents of Nyarutosho have joined together to address the problem of bad hygiene. The community initially identified many problems, including food insecurity, lack of electricity and clean water, bad housing, and infertile land. In the end, however, they decided together that poor hygiene and sanitation was the most important problem to address with funding support from Spark MicroGrants.

Because of the rocky landscape, it is difficult to build a good, permanent latrine in Nyarutosho. The community has traditionally used eucalyptus and banana trees to build latrines. In general, they lacked a roof. “It was shameful for me to show these to my visitors if it was raining,” says Charlotte Munezero, a member of the community. “Sometimes I told people who needed to use a latrine to continue up to the top of mountain.”

Spark MicroGrants visited Nyarutosho in May2011. People of this community described their area, and emphasized that there is a lack of hygiene because there is a lack of good latrines in the community. “We can’t have good hygiene without good latrines. Flies can enter the current open air latrines, pick up germs, carry the germs with them that then land on our food and house materials include plates, cups, buckets, spoons.” Sibomana Fidel, the community leader said.

Spark agreed to provide to the community a grant to support in building good and modern sanitation facility. The support will help purchase materials, which includes iron sheets, cement, wood, paint, soil and compensation for builders.

Community members believe that building latrines will greatly improve their hygiene and overall health. The hope is that the improvements willhelp prevent illness, which will improve the overall quality of life in the community. Members of the Nyarutosho community believe that this support to help build good latrines has inspired community members. The people seem to be proud to receive support , and they are now motivated to make healthier lives for themselves. They realize that having a good latrine will allow them to achieve basic sanitation. No flies will bring germs into their houses. They want to be a good example of clean and healthier people in Rwanda. As Emannuel, a village leaders said, “Let us care for sanitation because nice spirit lives in a nice body.”