Bhutan celebrates its first District to end open defecation

SNV | Gabrielle Halcrow from SNV, on 07/12/2017 10:03 AEST

Recognising the importance of sanitation and hygiene the Ministry of Health with technical support from SNV first initiated the national Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP) in Bhutan in 2008. In 2010, it was expanded district wide as part of the first phase of DFAT's CSO WASH Fund and has now reached 10 of the countries 20 districts. Access and hygienic usage of improved sanitation has steadily improved in programme districts, from as low as 25% to more than 95%.  The national average is now 79%.

In Bhutan, “World Toilet Day” on 19th November is increasingly a major event in creating awareness on sanitation and hygiene and as a day to celebrate and recognise progress in ending open defecation and upgrading the existing poor basic sanitation in sub-districts and districts.

This year, 15 sub-districts from 5 districts received recognition from the Finance Minister along with the RSAHP partners of SNV and UNICEF, district officials and local communities. To date, 39 sub-districts have now ended open defecation across the country. The highlight of this year’s event was the declaration of Mongar as the country’s first district to end open defecation and achieve 100% access to and hygienic usage of improved sanitation facilities. The programme in Mongar was led by the Ministry of Health with support from both UNICEF and SNV's CS WASH Fund project.

A sanitation fair was also organised as part of the celebrations where local householders were able to purchase quality sanitation items from the private suppliers which created linkages between the supplier and the local communities in the process.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has already identified Tsirang as the host district to observe World Toilet Day in 2018 and many more sub-district and districts are expected to be recognised next year.