Community Collaboration Improves Sanitation Conditions at DRC Health Facility
In the health zone of Kole, in Kasaï Oriental province, the population numbers approximately 84,000, and the zone’s 12 health facilities are frequently faced with sanitation issues. Hygiene was very poor at the health center in Kole Yango, where the public areas immediately surrounding the facility were used as an “open air bathroom” for washing and defecation, since there was no latrine for patients or their relatives. The human wastes were a source of health risks and many community members did not want to visit the center for this reason.
This changed recently with the support of the USAID-funded Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), led by Management Sciences for Health with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting. As one of its activities, DRC-IHP is working with communities to prioritize which health facilities are in need of rehabilitation to better serve local residents, and is also focusing on increasing the number of latrines.
In Kole Yango, the project worked with the local health development committee and community health workers to set some common objectives for improving hygiene conditions. One of these was to build a new latrine for the health facility, and the DRC-IHP team supported this effort. Community members contributed bricks and donated their own labor for the actual construction. DRC-IHP provided additional construction materials, including cement, iron bars and other goods. The new structure has two cabins, one for women and one for men. A nearby well has also been rehabilitated and an area adjacent to the latrine has been cemented, providing additional space for bathing.
The availability of the latrine has addressed the health center’s major hygiene issues. As Nurse Thomas Ntshikala of the Kole Yango health center notes, “Since the Integrated Health Project has constructed this latrine and renovated our well, many indicators have improved. From October to December 2011, the attendance rate at the center rose from 23 percent to 35 percent, and the utilization rate for antenatal care rose from 62 percent to 95 percent. The new latrine is also a contributing factor for the decreased rate of children under age five being treated for diarrhea, which dropped from 15 percent to 9 percent.”