Health: A two-day inception workshop on Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP) ended in Trashigang on April 22.

Organised by the Department of Public Health in collaboration with SNV and UNICEF, the primary objective of the programme is to provide people in rural areas access to safe, sufficient and sustainable sanitation facilities through adoption of hygienic practices.

During the two days, participants comprising of gups, gewog administrative officers and health workers from the 15 gewogs of Trashigang were briefed on the programme. A work plan for the dzongkhag was developed and baseline data to monitor progress in the future was established.

According to the Executive Engineer with the Public Health Engineering Division (PHED), NB Yonzan, the programme will continue for two years in the dzongkhag.

“RSAHP was incepted considering the multi-dimensional poverty index, access to improved sanitation and hygienic use of sanitation facilities in the country,” he said. “Through such workshops, we would also be familiarising participants on a systematic method for data collection so that we can place timely interventions based on precise figures.”

Going by the annual health survey figures, the eastern region was found to have comparatively a poor sanitation and hygiene conditions. Of the six eastern dzongkhags, Lhuentse has the poorest sanitation followed by Pemagatshel and Samdrupjongkhar.

Trashigang, on the other hand, is faring better. Health officials in the dzongkhag confirmed that 60 percent of the households in Trashigang have improved sanitation while a 100 percent achievement is expected by 2016. Improved sanitation is defined as the hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.

Nationwide figures reflected in the annual health bulletin show that 58.4 percent of the population has improved sanitation today. For the 41.6 percent with unimproved sanitation. 96 percent of the people only have basic sanitation while four percent don’t even have toilets. This is why waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery didn’t witness significant drops in the last six years.

Therefore, RSAHP is being implemented across nine dzongkhags since 2014. PHED has a national target of implementing the programme in all 20 dzongkhags by 2018.

Through the programme, demand for improved sanitation would be created through the Community Development for Health (CDH) workshops. CHD methodology seeks to encourage ownership through community led approaches and advocacy programmes at the grassroot level.

“CDH workshop methodology uses behavioural change tools to build individual and community commitment to changing the health environment. For instance, encouraging self-discovery of the linkages between water and sanitation is one aspect of it,” NB Yonzan said. “Strengthening sanitation supply chains and WASH governance are other components of RSAHP.”

Officials from PHED added that improved sanitation would result in reduced child mortality, diarrhoeal morbidity and stunting. Attendance of a female students in schools is expected to increase by 20 to 23 percent while using a toilet at home instead of building it metres away. Toilets at home would save time and increase productivity of household members.

“On the other hand, bringing in behavioural changes, manpower shortage, lack of uniform data and achieving the national target are few major challenges we are facing,” NB Yonzan said.

Tshering Wangdi |  Trashigang