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Toilets improve the health of communities

Plan International Laos is encouraging people to use and maintain hygienic toilets and is helping them understand how it will improve their health and well-being.

Bounsy cleaning her toilet
Bounsy cleaning her toilet.

In Bokeo Province, Plan International Laos has been working with community members to increase their understand about the importance of using toilets and good sanitation and hygiene practices.

Although the Lao government provided communities with a water system and materials to construct toilets in 2008, people in the community continued to defecate outside because they were unaware of benefits of toilets.

To help combat this issue, Plan International Laos, in collaboration with the local health department in Meung District, introduced a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in 2014 to motivate villagers who already own toilets to use them and encourage others to build their own.

Community-led total sanitation

Because the CLTS approach recognises that merely providing toilets will not guarantee their use, nor result in improved basic sanitation and hygiene, it aims to raise awareness about the critical importance of toilets, sanitation, hygiene, and clean water practices in achieving better health. Rather than enforcing guidelines, communities conduct their own analysis of open defecation and determine for themselves what design and materials work best for them.

I was so proud of my father for building the first toilet in our community, but I didn’t even know how important it was

Teaching community members that using the toilet is better for them is imperative. Open defecation is associated with disease, under-nutrition, stunting, and poor health. Helping people in remote communities see these connections is one of the strengths of the CLTS. 

"I think I understand well why we need to have and utilise the toilet," says Bounsy. She is also aware that it will be beneficial for her 2 year old daughter. “She will be healthier in the future,” she says.

Building new toilets

Another part of the CLTS project is providing technical advice on building toilets. Using the correct techniques and choosing smart locations will help toilets last longer and keep people healthier.

Nakhasy, 43, says, “At that time, no one advised us how to build the toilet. We just followed other villagers. We decided to build a new toilet next month. This time, we will make sure that we discuss with district staff about techniques that will help our toilet last longer.”

In March 2016, the Meung District Health Department announced and certified Huay San village as an Open Defecation Free Village. This means Houay San meets 4 basic standards (toilet utility, safe drinking water, hand-washing with soap, and clean environment).