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Children in Laos promote good hygiene on World Toilet Day

Students learning how to teach proper handwashing to their peers.
Students learning how to teach proper handwashing to their peers.
A local toilet that villagers built themselves with support from Plan.
A local toilet that villagers built themselves with support from Plan.
November 18, 2011

World Toilet Day on November 19th draws attention to the dire consequences for communities without proper sanitation.

In Laos, Plan is helping children to spread the word about the importance of hygiene. Thinpha, a remote village in Bokeo Province, recently built toilets - defecating in the open had caused difficulties in the past.

“It used to be tough during the rainy season,” explains grandmother Ms Sie, “and children often suffered from diarrhea". Her village is the beneficiary of an initiative run by Plan Laos where children pass on the message that good sanitation saves lives.

 

Preventing disease

300 children attended good hygiene training sessions held at six schools in three districts. Through games and role-playing, they learned about:

  • the importance of good personal hygiene
  • how, why, and when to wash their hands
  • the importance of clean drinking water
  • how to use a toilet and keep it clean
  • the importance of sanitation in preventing disease.

The young trainees shared this knowledge with their friends and families, encouraging everyone to stop using bushes, fields and riverbanks as their toilets. The results have been very positive so far. Of the five target villages, one has declared itself open-defecation free and the others are on their way.

In less than a year, from December 2010 to April 2011, three villages almost tripled the number of toilets they had, from 35 to 91. And another 28 were under construction.

 

Building toilets

Villagers now understand that open defecation leads to poor health and, with each other’s help, contribute the labour they need to build toilets on their own, without subsidies.

Ms. Sie explains how simple the process was: “We learned the disadvantages of poor hygiene and sanitation, and when we built a toilet for our family we saw for ourselves that it is much cleaner and much more convenient than using the great outdoors". The Sies and their 14 grandchildren are happier and healthier and as Plan Laos replicates its efforts elsewhere, other communities across Laos will be too.

Learn more about Plan's Water and Sanitation programs.

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