The gruelling urban ODF journey and the laudable efforts of Norton Town Council

Welthungerhilfe | Erica_Keogh from Welthungerhilfe Zimbabwe, on 03/07/2017 09:53 EST

The Norton community comprises people with diverse cultures, beliefs, occupations and high social mobility which makes it difficult to change bad hygiene practices through the conventional methods. The population is highly anchored on informal trading in every location and Katanga is the hub of such activities which spill late into the night and early hours of each day.  Being a town between two major dams, Chivero and Darwendale, Norton town attracts multitudes of people - the so called “Fish Mongers” - from as far as Harare, Kadoma and even Kwekwe on a daily basis. This trend together with increased urban migration greatly increases waste generation and puts pressure on service delivery and exacerbates a lack of willingness to pay for services.

Photo: Champions, health providers and community health clubs attack illegal rubbish dumps in Norton.

Sighing after a major cleanup exercise at Katanga business centre, the Norton Town Council Environmental Health Officer Misheck Mayawo recounts the efforts needed to declare urban areas Open Defecation Free (ODF). “With their fast lifestyle compared to their rural cousins, working towards achievement of ODF status in urban areas is quite demanding”  

Photo: Mr Mishek Mayawo, Norton Town Council  Environmental Health Officer.

Populations in urban areas are more dense than rural areas and urban people frequently change their occupation or residence in search of better opportunities. Whilst the urban lifestyle is seen as affluent, the heterogeneous nature of its population makes it difficult to use conventional community approaches for mobilisation due to lack of social cohesion. In rural settings, there is a single centre of command which is respected by almost everyone and when rural leaders call for meetings there is 100% attendance, whilst in urban areas the total opposite is true. “We are however happy that we have taken the bull by its horns through a phased approach which saw Wards being clustered into ODF zones. To date the first two out of four zones have been declared ODF, and our main focus is now Katanga Business Centre …and that is where everything happens!”

Photo: Norton Town Secretary Mr Muhomba unveils the achieved ODF indicators with Dr Mhuka closely following the historic moment.

With support from Welthungerhilfe's SELF project, Norton Town Council employed various approaches to attain ODF status. These include:

  • Selecting and mentoring community WASH and gender and social inclusion (GeSI) champions to improve community engagement
  • Training Council Staff, Community Leaders and Champions in Community Support to Service Delivery (CSSD)
  • Training Champions and Health Promoters in Sanitation Focused PHHE (SaFPHHE), Hygiene Promotion and triggering for ODF
  • Adopting a multi indicator tracking framework for ODF
  • Undertaking a phased approach to attainment of ODF status
  • Using a Mobile Desludging Unit for emptying pit latrines and septic tanks in high density areas
  • Conducting mechanised cleanup exercises with support of tractors, tippers, front end loaders and compactors from Council
  • Carrying out “man on the street” training to improve health and hygiene practices.