As they never had toilets in their huts, the residents of a Mushahar settlement of Lalbandi Municipality, Ward no 5, of Sarlahi District always had to wait until darkness to defecate. For women, this was always difficult - especially when they had stomach disorders.
This open excretion has always been part of their culture and life but the devastating flood of the Betini River has ended this cycle. Along with the construction of new shelter, each flood victim of this small riverbank community now has toilets as well as plinth raised, hand and normal pumps for drinking water.
Twenty-two year old Hema Majhi, a mother of two, is a testimony to the transformation in Lalbandi. This can be seen through her life’s visible recovery thanks to LWF’s recovery program.
For decades Majhi and the other women of the thirteen households would have to wait painfully for hours until dark before they could empty their bowels.
“Of course, our property and houses were destroyed by floods and we were made homeless. However, the shelter support provided by Samari Utthan Sewa (SUS), has turned our lives from meagerness to happiness. Constructed as part of the shelter scheme, we have now had toilets and water pumps.”
“I don’t have to wait for night to come. I can go to my toilet at any time,” says Hema with confidence. I don’t have to wait to fetch water and argue with my neighbor anymore, as we have our own pump set.”
While walking on the embankment of the river, where shelters are under construction, and families are in temporary housing, one can see the areas affected by the floods. It is also easy to see how people were compelled to defecate openly. Inhabitants often complain of snake and insects bites within their makeshift embankment homes. “I have killed around twenty snakes already,” says Jugeshwar Ram.
Twenty-five Mushahar families suffered increased chances of disease transmission from openly excreting also.
After a long effort, toilets have finally been constructed. The District Water Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee had entrusted LWF and its local partner, SUS, with this process. Along with the reconstruction of shelter, there was the aim of declaring the Municipality Open Defecation Free (ODF). However, one of the major challenges was to make the Mushahar community build and actually use toilets.
To create awareness of building toilets, SUS screened videos, launched door-to-door campaigns, performed street drama, organized meetings of the Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (VWASH-CC) and held interactions on the importance of using toilets.
After a series of sessions convincing them to use toilets, Majhi and his parents agreed. Although the process of handing over the toilet is still under way, many people whose toilets have already been completed now use them and the water pamphlet successfully. ACT Alliance, SUS of Sweden and FELM Nepal provided this financial support. (Source: Rays of Hope: The Lutheran World Federation Nepal)