Mukantwali’s tale – from ‘bushes’ to owning an improved and standard latrine
Nyaruguru-February 2020– The mid-morning bright sky was a clear sign that it was not going to rain that day, the early February rains have been heavily pounding Nyaruguru district in the Southern Province making some roads impassable, as you exit Nyaruguru town, the next areas are abuzz with activity, from people going to the market to those going to tend to their farms. Yozefina Mukantwali of Rasaniro village Maliba, Rusenge sector in Nyaruguru district is busy cleaning around her house.
The plantation and short shrubs around her house have been trimmed and pruned creating a beautiful scenery around her home, a few months ago, the scenery was different, and the same plantation and shrubs harbored a swarm of flies and emitted a foul smell. Mukantwali could not afford to build a latrine, being a widow, her efforts to seek help from neighbors to assist her to have a latrine did not yield much. And her attitude and perception on the importance of having a standard and the improved latrine was another handicap to affording one.
“I and some of my neighbors used the bushes around my house as a latrine, there was a swarm of flies, the same flies would come from there to my house, we often suffered from poor hygiene-related diseases, and this created catastrophic out of pocket expenses to cater for the medical bills,” says Mukantwali. Sometimes when I did not have the money to take the children to the health center, I would use herbs and traditional medicine which did not help, she adds.
In Maliba cell Rusenge sector, Nyaruguru district, Mukantwali’s case is not an isolated case, Donatila Mukaseti, a mother of four from Miko village didn’t not only lack enough money to build an improved latrine but she also questioned the need to own one, she thought that a pit with a makeshift structure behind her house could serve the same purpose. “My problem was attitude and it is what almost cost me the lives of my children who suffered from diarrhea and cholera,” she laments, adding that washing hands after using the latrine was seen as wastage of water and soap.
“When we went to the parents’ forum (umugoroba w’ababyeyi) we were asked whether we have latrines and we all answered in the affirmative, but when they explained the requirements for an improved standard latrine, I came to realize that I didn’t have a latrine,” she explained.
Mukantwali, Mukaseti, and their neighbors came to understand the importance of improved sanitation and hygiene through a parent’s forum organized by Nyaruguru district, UNICEF-Rwanda and SFH-Rwanda as part of a sanitation and hygiene project implemented by Nyaruguru district.
Colletta Kayitesi, the vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs for Nyaruguru district says that the sanitation and hygiene project came at the right time when the district was initiating a campaign to promote improved livelihoods focusing on sanitation and hygiene. Under the project, people were sensitized on the importance of having latrines, hand washing with clean water and soap.
Vulnerable families were given construction materials such as iron sheets, wood, and cement. The project supported 1000 vulnerable families in category 1 and 2 of UBUDEHE (social structure) to have latrines. This has improved latrine coverage in the district,” she said. Today, in Nyaruguru district the percentage of households with improved latrines is at 95 percent indicating the critical contribution of the project towards promoting sanitation and hygiene in the district. The district has also set up community mobilization teams which helped in sensitizing communities on the importance and use of sanitation and hygiene.