In an official program, Nepal will declare itself an Open Defecation Free (ODF) free nation today – while a few shortcomings remain, tremendous efforts by multiple stakeholders have been placed to materialise the status.
You see, in 2011, when Nepal decided to declare itself an ODF nation, only 43% homes had a toilet facility – today, that number has more than doubled. (While an exact number of households without toilet is not yet ascertained, a small number remains). That itself speaks volumes on the efforts – however, Nepal has other challenges.
An ODF free nation essentially means, ‘each citizen of Nepal has access to a toilet’, therefore no Nepali will defecate in the open. However, because someone has access to toilet does not mean one will use it; therefore, a few will still defecate in the open.
Therefore, it is not time to stop the efforts. To see that we are past the threshold, the efforts to make people aware about ‘better sanitation habits’ need to continue.
- Many are still reluctant to use toilets – for example, in certain Terai areas, father-in-laws and daughter-in-laws do not share the same toilet, in several districts, men believe that sharing toilet with a menstruating woman will bring misfortune; so much so, Kathmandu itself is not totally ODF due to shortage of public facilities.
- Lack of follow-up after declaring ODF status – the practice of open defecation in previously ODF declared ares are said to be in practice too – yet again highlighting the lack of sanitation education within communities/families.
The efforts of all to arrive on this day has been tremendous and needs to be acknowledged, however simply gaining an ODF status is not going to suffice, and the efforts definitely must not stop. Awareness programs of healthy sanitation habits must continue nationwide. Measures to overcome the socio-political must be put in place.
Each Nepali must WANT to go to the toilet – only then we would have achieved a true status of an Open Defecation Free nation.