ACAT in Nirva a model of continuity

The ACAT committe with partners Zanmi Lasante and UNICEF

The locality of Nirva (Department of Centre) is one of the first to be declared “End of open defecation” (ODF). Since the committee “Community Approach to Total Sanitation (ACAT) is doing everything possible, between hygiene awareness and home visit, to allow the community to continue on this good start. Cholera has virtually disappeared in this community.

“ACAT has had a major impact in the community. Before, cholera was wreaking havoc. Community members came together to solve the problem by helping people build toilets so that it does not happen again, “says Wilfrid Moise, chair of Nirva’s ACAT committee, who is satisfied with the current situation.

The locality has 150 families, there were only 66 latrines. As part of the ACAT, people have built nearly 42 latrines. Nirva is part of the communal section of Grand Boucan.

André Aimable, a member of the community, still remembers the difficult times the population had to go through, concerning the spread of cholera. “The ACAT is an extremely important experience for us, because before the parents had a lot of sadness. When their children had cholera, by taking them to the treatment center, they did not know if the children would come back alive, “he recalls.

DINEPA, UNICEF and Zanmi Lasante came to them, raising awareness about the importance of latrines and promoting hygiene. They decided to take part in the program.

Difficulties to accept the project

A Latrine with the tipitap

Initially it was not easy, as members of the population expected to receive material or financial assistance to build the latrines. This was even more difficult, as at the same time other organizations were building free latrines. The committee members showed patience and pedagogy to convince people to agree to build the latrines themselves.

“We had to explain to them that they will be the big beneficiaries of these latrines. Because it will be a considerable gain for the health of their children and for them too. We all need these latrines and we are witnessing the ravages of cholera, we have to get together to get there, “says Casséus Mercidieu, another member of the committee.

To dig the holes of the latrines, it needed willpower and courage. The committee members gathered at the end of the day by helping the people of the community. There was a snowball effect and everyone wanted a toilet. The toilets are built with the means of the edge, either in straws, in cloths, and rarely in concrete.

The community was declared “End of Open Defecation” (ODF) in February 2015 and there is a big testimonial party. “Since then we have never had a case of cholera in our community,” says Casseus, satisfied.

A coalition of all partners for monitoring

Jean Montas, Community WASH Officer, within Nirva, is responsible for hygiene awareness. He admits that he has no free time because he must make regular visits to the homes to make sure that certain hygiene rules are respected. For example, if the latrines are clean, if the openings are covered, if the tipitap (sort of gallon for washing hands) are in good working condition. Hygiene awareness is raised in schools, in churches, and in all places of assembly. Jean Montas puts the emphasis on the measures to be applied to avoid catching cholera.

He wonders when he can take a vacation. “But we belong to the locality, we must help people, it is the mission that I gave myself,” he says.

UNICEF supports Zanmi Lasante, implementation partner in Central Plateau. It is executed with the support of the National Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DINEPA) and the Ministry of Public Health and Population.

This post is also available in: French