November 21, 2023
VIENTIANE – Health ministry celebrates increased use of toilets
The Ministry of Health has announced that Vientiane and the provinces of Borikhamxay and Vientiane have been officially declared open-defecation-free, after more households began installing toilets.
Speaking at a meeting last week about the goal to eliminate open defecation countrywide by 2025, Minister of Health Dr Bounfeng Phoummalaysith said figures recorded in 2021-22 showed that 91.5 percent of the population had access to clean water and 82 percent were using latrines.
“We are implementing a community-based approach to sanitation, resulting in significant health benefits throughout the country. Great progress has been made in improving sanitation and hygiene towards the goal of ending open defecation by the end of 2025,” he said.
“We hope to become a “sanitation” country by 2030 if the national policy and strategy on sanitation are fully implemented,” he added.
Over the past two decades from 2000-2020, basic access to toilets increased from 26 to 80 percent and the rate of open defecation fell from 62 to 16 percent.
To fulfil the goal to eliminate open defecation completely, Dr Bounfeng urged government bodies at all levels, together with development partners, to foster knowledge and understanding of the regulations in relation to government policy on improved sanitation and ensure these are enforced.
This includes effectively using the available budget for continuous implementation of sanitation-related initiatives and encouraging communities to make changes and adopt hygienic practices for a healthier lifestyle.
These efforts are aimed at improving public health and the quality of life in rural communities, and reducing deaths and illness due to poor hygiene, Dr Bounfeng said.
It is essential to used qualified personnel in the implementation of this work and to encourage behavioural changes in ways that are sustainable, he added.
It is also necessary to monitor and evaluate sanitation practices and encourage people to drink clean water, dispose of garbage correctly, eat clean food, and to wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet or touching dirty objects.
“If these practices become accepted and commonplace, it will help to prevent disease outbreaks,” the health minister said.
According to UNICEF, worldwide 2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and more than half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation. Three billion people do not have access to handwashing facilities with soap and 673 million people practise open defecation.
The consequences of unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene on children can be deadly. Over 700 children under the age of five die every day of diarrhoeal diseases due to lack of appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.