Hygiene: Only 49.8 percent of Wangdue district’s 7,198 households have access to improved toilet, while 35 percent households still use unimproved toilets, and 15.2 percent does not have toilet.

The dzongkhag has about 37, 377 people and 7,198 households in its 15 gewogs.

In an attempt to create awareness and promote sanitation, health ministry with the support of SNV conducted a sanitation fair in Dangchu gewog.

The interactive programme was conducted with the message; more people have access to expensive mobile phones than toilet. “Get your priorities right, invest in a toilet for better hygiene and a healthy life,” it said.

It is part of the rural sanitation and hygiene programme initiated by the health ministry’s public health and engineering division, where SNV is providing technical support. UNICEF has also provided financial support.

Adviser to SNV, Tashi Dorji said the sanitation fair was also to help link villagers with suppliers, who would sell quality products at reasonable prices. People were excited as the materials were brought to the village, he said. “We also provided masonry training to villagers to help them build better toilets and acquire skills to construct toilet,” he said. The community has come up with the action plan to ensure all households have a toilet.

“Our target is to reach out to as many local people as possible, therefore, the fair was particularly held during the three-day Dangchu tshechu, as it happens once in three years,” Tashi Dorji said. “Tshechu is considered one of the most sacred amongst the locality and attracts people from various parts of Wangdue.”

Some of the activities during the fair included display of sanitation and hygiene stall posters, flyers, toilet models for communities to understand the importance of improved sanitation and hygiene including hand washing. Toilet hardware materials were on display including people-with-disability-friendly toilet.

A medical check-up was organized during the fair.

Tashi Dorji said the programme was initially started as a pilot project in 2008.

“We tried out the programme in four regions, Laya gewog in Gasa, Hiley gewog in Sarpang, Jarey gewog in Lhuentse and Nanong gewog in Pemagatshel. The pilot programme turned out a success.

A recent review showed in both Lhuentse and Pemagatshel that 98 percent now has access to improved sanitation, he said. “Our goal is to help all people living in rural areas to have access to safe, sufficient and sustainable sanitation facilities, and adopt safe hygiene practices,” said Tashi Dorji.

He added that in terms of coverage, it is satisfactory. Around 98 percent has access to toilets but most of them are open pit or traditional pit-toilets, which have a high risk of spreading diseases. In actual, only 54.8 percent of the overall population in the country has access to improved sanitation, said Tashi Dorji.

The health ministry plans to achieve 80 percent access to improved sanitation within five years.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue