Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners have recently launched the
Last Mile Open Defecation campaign at a ceremony held in Brikama.
Madam Sandra Lattouf, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) resident representative said in address that her agency provided assistance in the development of a countrywide campaign in 2017 which focused on the last mile to end open defecation in The Gambia.
According to her, in December 2017, the results from a national independent verification exercise identified 8 districts as open defecation free which makes a total of 17 districts out of 40 that attained open defecation free status.
“Accordingly, a cumulative total of 1675 out of 1891 communities (89%) have been declared open defecation free. This declining trend in open defecation means that The Gambia is on track to reach the net domestic product (NDP) targets for sanitation where all houses in the Gambia have access to, and use a toilet,” she said.
Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, minister of health and social welfare said Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) promotion are crucial building blocks for development, noting that WASH promotion interventions improve health outcomes, advance education, reduce poverty and malnutrition, increase child and maternal survival, drive economic growth, contribute to gender equality and dignity and improve overall quality of life.
She added that despite the importance of WASH in virtually all development outcomes, an estimated 748 million people still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation.
She explained that this is a situation that the government of The Gambia cannot accept and is why it holds the WASH sector seriously which is amply demonstrated by their success rates.
“The government of The Gambia has made significant strides towards scaling up of community approaches to total sanitation throughout the country with impressive results on behavior change for latrine use. Currently, the country has registered significant results in reducing the rates of open defecation nationally which stand at 1% nationally. With this low rate, the country is positioned to be the first African country to end open defecation.”
Ngally Abubacarr Sambou, regional health director of Western 2 said the aim of the event is to mobilise development partners from the private sector, media and political leaders to join them in an effort to improve hygiene change social norms and eliminate open defecation in The Gambia, saying the new national development plan 2018-2021 is committed to that agenda.
According to him, ending open defecation in the world would lead to 36% reduction in deaths due to diarrhea for children less than 5 years, saying “if we could end open defecations in the Gambia, the number of people affected by sanitation related diseases will be significantly reduced.”
Bakary Sanyang, governor of West Coast Region described the event as timely, challenging women of his region to take the lead in the campaign.