The United Nations recently congratulated the government of Nepal as it took another step toward putting a toilet in every household and every public school and institution in a ceremony attended by the Prime Minister, top government officials and partners.
The disposal of human waste is a critical issue for Nepal, where in 1980 only 3 per cent of homes had sanitary facilities and the majority of the population, even in urban areas practiced open defecation, considered the “most dangerous form of sanitation” for its deadly effect children, women and the community.
The cost comes both in lives and in the economy as resulting illnesses not only threaten newborns, children and the elderly, but also for lost working hours. One study has shown that poor sanitation and hygiene cost the Nepali economy somewhere between $300 million and $750 million dollars every year.
Progress in providing toilets has been enormous. In just one year, from 2011 – 2012, UNICEF recorded an increase of 19 per cent toilet coverage. Today, the total coverage in the country is 62.
“The power of whole communities to take a collective decision to regain their pride and dignity by stopping open defecation and cleaning up their immediate living environments,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Nepal Representative. “Secondly it’s the strong government leadership at all levels and unified political support based on a strong joint vision on how to trigger and sustain these school and community led initiatives.”
The plan the government signed on to, the MDG Acceleration Framework for Sanitation, came about in response to the need to speed up the country toward meeting the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation. One example of the challenges is the inequity apparent in the Census data that shows that eight districts in the poorest part of the country have less than 30 per cent toilet coverage, whereas there are 14 districts that have more than 80 per cent coverage.
The action plan sets out three important points:
· Government has resolved that open defecation will be prohibited;
· Government will not provide subsidies to private households, however special support will be given to the ultra-poor among the bottom wealth quintile;
· The government will continue committing resources for complete water and sanitation facilities and the “No schools without toilets” campaign.
The Prime Minister instructed five ministries to implement the action plan.
“Open defecation is challenging in some parts of Nepal, and 38 per cent of people still practice open defecation,” said the Prime Minister Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai. “The government’s target for the nation is to be defecation free and with access to drinking water by 2017.”