From “over there” to “over here” – access to toilets changes lives

 By Clem van den Bersselaar, member of Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay (Philippines)

If you ask a Filipino living in a rural area of the Philippines where they go to the toilet, they will turn their head towards a non-specific direction and say “over there.” This means that they use any location that gives them some sort of privacy to do their needs. Women generally have to go longer distances to avoid prying eyes and avoid assaults. In fact, when one talks to local community health workers about the risks of open defecation, they tell you about parasitic and bacterial infections while also emphasizing the high percentage of women being molested or harassed.

In November 2013, part of the Leyte province in the Philippines was hit by the devastating typhoon Haiyan, the country’s worst typhoon affecting 25 million people and claiming nearly 6000 lives while leaving tremendous damage throughout the island.

Immediately after the typhoon, Rotary clubs from various countries came to the rescue. Local clubs responded with food supplies and worked with NGOs to begin rebuilding homes. Once immediate relief was provided, the focus shifted to meet sanitary requirements in restoring water supply and the construction of toilet facilities.

The Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay identified the WAND Foundation (Water, Agro-forestry, Nutrition and Development) as having the expertise to construct 20,000 latrines together with various NGO’s immediately after the typhoon in the province of Samar in the Philippines. WAND Foundation’s previous contacts with the Malmö (Sweden) International Rotary Club, provided a natural connection to propose this project at the 8th Multi Club Workshop (MCW) held in Ischia, Italy.  The project was accepted by the MCW and the partners applied for a global grant, which was approved in February 2016.  Seven Rotary clubs and three districts from Italy, the Philippines and Sweden contributed to the US $52,000 project.

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The project included constructing 222 toilets in various barangays, six rainwater collectors, seven communal handwashing stations, 20 biosand filters, and community-led training seminars for the beneficiary communities. As a result, this project has provided nearly 1100 people with access to proper toilet facilities and almost 600 people now have a regular supply of clean water. The community-led training seminar included a series of group discussions and a workshop to demonstrate which practices can prevent water contamination and to recognize the interconnection of water, sanitation and hygiene. We also discussed the medical costs related to open defecation in order to help the community understand how much money is spent on treating illnesses resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene.

We are happy to report the beneficiary communities have not had a single case of parasitic or diarrheal infections since the project was completed. Now when asked where they go to the toilet, the proud community members say “over here”!

Looking for international projects to support? Attend the 2017 Multi-Club Workshop in London, England. The 11th annual event will take place 6-10 September. Learn more about the workshop and visit their website for more information! 

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Author: rotaryservice

The Rotary Service Connections blog helps Rotarians plan effective and inspired service projects. If you have questions, comments, or story recommendations, contact us at rotary.service@rotary.org

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